Postcard from...Hong Kong


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The Independent Online


For the legions of tourists, it is one of the great skylines of the world – Central Hong Kong at night, illuminated, imposing and beautiful, and the southern Chinese city's most distinctive feature. For visitors, the light pollution is so bright they have to wear shades.

A new study finds the dazzling lights of the Asian metropolis are causing light pollution, in some cases a staggering 1,200 times the internationally accepted standard.

"The light leaving this Pearl of the Orient is excessive," wrote the not-for-profit Friends of the Environment.

The rising neon towers of downtown Hong Kong are truly impressive, but if you live there – imagine living next door to the Bank of China or HSBC headquarters with their glowing edifices – it means heavy curtains, all less than ideal if you are trying to maximise natural light on cloudy days.

Scientists collected data at 18 monitoring stations for three years, and found the worst readings included the city's tourist hotspot Tsim Sha Tsui. Hong Kong residents are divided between the need to bring tourists to the city and the desire to keep things a bit less glitzy.

A government-commissioned survey in 2011 found that more than 70 per cent of 2,700 respondents said they felt there was light pollution in Hong Kong, but 78 per cent of residents also said lights helped promote tourism and beautify the environment.

Activists want more regulated lighting in the city so as not to disturb wildlife in various cases, but the decision has been left open.