Let there be less light

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

The blight of Malta’s light pol­lu­tion epi­demic is bound to even­tu­ally reach epic pro­por­tions un­less proper light abate­ment mea­sures be­gin be­ing im­posed on fu­ture de­vel­op­ments and re­me­dial ac­tion is taken with re­spect to the thou­sands of ex­ist­ing glar­ing sources of light pol­lu­tion. Some time ago NASA pub­lished a pho­to­graph of Europe at night, which showed Malta to be a mas­sive or­ange light bulb in the mid­dle of the Mediter­ranean. A re­cent rep­utable sci­en­tific pa­per showed that Malta was only out­done by Sin­ga­pore and San Marino in terms of light pol­lu­tion. That pa­per also high­lighted the fact that Malta suf­fers so heav­ily from light pol­lu­tion that the glow­ing band of our own galaxy, the Milky Way, is no longer per­cep­ti­ble from our is­lands. In fact, the Milky Way can­not be seen from 89 per cent of Malta and Gozo.

But in light of this, poor out­door light­ing prac­tices per­sist across the coun­try’s roads, in­dus­trial in­stal­la­tions, foot­ball pitches…just about ev­ery­where one looks.

Light pol­lu­tion de­tracts from our own qual­ity of life, as well as that of the coun­try’s sen­si­tive fauna and its bird pop­u­la­tions.

Ed­i­tor’s pick

But de­spite the fact that bet­ter con­trols against light pol­lu­tion also mean more cost-ef­fec­tive light­ing, there seems to be lit­tle ef­fort be­ing made in this re­gard, and the coun­try can do much bet­ter through the right leg­is­la­tion, rules and reg­u­la­tions.

Bet­ter leg­is­la­tion should be im­ple­mented to re­duce light pol­lu­tion in fu­ture devel­op­ment through the plan­ning and en­force­ment sys­tems, par­tic­u­larly within a pre­scribed num­ber of kilo­me­tres around eco­log­i­cally sen­si­tive areas, while also im­ple­ment­ing a Dark Sky her­itage con­cept for the coun­try. This could be cou­pled with a public aware­ness cam­paign en­cour­ag­ing res­i­dents to switch off lights and re­move or re­place un­nec­es­sary or in­ap­pro­pri­ate out­door light­ing, as well as a busi­ness aware­ness cam­paign to pre­vent over il­lu­mi­na­tion of ho­tel porches, win­dows and grounds.

Globe lights need to be re­moved from all public areas, to­gether with a com­plete pro­hi­bi­tion on their fu­ture use, as well as the pro­hi­bi­tion of un­nec­es­sary ex­ter­nal light­ing, the re­place­ment of other types of street light­ing with a full cut-off de­sign in a rolling pro­gramme, a re­duc­tion of over-il­lu­mi­na­tion, which will also con­tribute to a re­duc­tion of CO2 emis­sions.

Light pol­lu­tion, af­ter all, is mostly wasted light be­ing emit­ted from poorly de­signed fixtures that emit light up­wards in­stead of down­wards where it is needed. Out­door light­ing is, of course, in­dis­pens­able but we def­i­nitely need to use more de­vices that give light fac­ing down­wards.

Light pol­lu­tion also needs to be con­trolled through the use of cut-off light­ing, which does not emit light up­wards, in Out­sideDevel­op­ment Zones.

For ex­am­ple, foot­ball pitches should only be lit by asym­met­ric full cut-off flood­light­ing which pre­vent the nui­sance to the neigh­bour­hood while still per­fectly il­lu­mi­nat­ing the play area. There are dozens more ways and means by which light pol­lu­tion can be put un­der bet­ter con­trol, but what we need is the right in­cen­tives to do so. Re­cent con­tro­ver­sies that have erupted over the light­ing in dark sky areas such as Dwe­jra, Gozo, and it is hoped that the spot­light be­ing shed on the is­sue will urge the au­thor­i­ties to take more con­crete ac­tion.

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