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Shanghai seeks to switch off 'light pollution'
By Da Yong (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-04-12 09:29

Most Shanghai grownups still have childhood memories of fantastic starry summer nights.

But such dreams are fading, along with the chance to view the local night sky, which has become overshadowed by man-made light.

"Now in the downtown area, people can hardly see the Polaris (North Star)," said Zhang Jianwei, chief of Shanghai's Sheshan Observatory in suburban Songjiang District.

Even at Sheshan Mountain in the city's southwestern suburbs, it is difficult to find Polaris, which is regarded as one of the brightest stars in the sky, without a telescope, said Zhang.

He said Polaris was easily seen from the mountain in the late 1980s.

The light in the city's centre has become "a kind of pollution," Zhang noted.

Fortunately, the local government is aware of the problem. Experts are appealing for national legislation and State standards against the so-called light pollution.

In the latest disaster prevention general scheme, publicized by the Shanghai municipal government, light pollution has been highlighted as one of the major problem areas, together with concerns over the number of skyscrapers in the city, a newly-constructed oil pipeline and infectious diseases.

Excessive light at night not only affects astronomical observation, but also poses a threat to people's health, according to experts at the Shanghai Environmental Sanitation Administrative Bureau.

People's body clocks and internal functions may be affected by such light pollution, experts said, citing a German scientific study.

The sources with the bureau revealed that the city government plans to crack down on the emerging pollution problem by releasing regulations on illumination at night.

Among the new measures, which are still waiting for final approval, electric signs will not be permitted to shine through the windows of private residences, said Guo Hua, director of the bureau's lights and advertisements administration department.

The brightness of lights in the downtown commercial district will be reduced and the frequency of lights flashing will also be reduced, Guo said.

"The city's nightscape will be just as pretty," said Guo, quoted by local media. Guo said that in the future, Shanghai's lights will be "more environmentally sound and fit in better with local people's lives."

Shanghai, known as the "city without night," boasts extravagant electric signs from skyscrapers, apartments and even boats along its Huangpu River.

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