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Guangzhou Businesses Defy New Rule on Light Pollution

Posted: 05/5/2014 10:18 am

After a long-awaited regulation was finally introduced on May 1 to tackle Guangzhou’s glaring light pollution problem, nearly all downtown illuminated signs and LED screens continued to shine in defiance of the new rule, allowing Guangzhou to maintain its reputation as “the city without night“.

The regulation, known as the “Management of Outdoor Advertisement Boards and Signs”, says in article 12 that all outdoor LED screens including advertisements and signs should be turned off from 10:30pm to 7:30am every day. But a tour of many Guangzhou commercial areas by a reporter from the New Express Daily on the same night showed a defiant scene where LED screens continued to glow well into the night. In an ironic twist to the story, one giant LED screen in the Peace World Plaza was seen displaying messages during prohibited hours from the government regulator supposedly responsible for light pollution control.

Despite recommendations that evening lights be set at a maximum of 15 lumens, the illumination on Beijng Road, a main shopping street in Guangzhou, was recorded at more than 1,000 lumens, more than 60 times the international standard. Li Guangming, a doctor with the Guangzhou Research Institute of Environmental Protection, said that light pollution could cause health problems including stress, anxiety and even cause problems in people’s sex lives.

When the reporter brought the incidents to the department, the government dodged responsibility and passed the buck to the environmental protection department, saying, “The luminous light pollution should be handled by the environmental department, and we can only give them suggestions. The responsibility lies with them.”  When the reporter grilled the department about their assigned responsibility, the person on the other end of the phone said they knew nothing about the new rule and did not receive any notification about how to handle such cases.

It’s little surprise that government bureaucracy and poor accountability are sabotaging the regulation’s enforcement, but another hurdle for the law may be the financially-assured advertisers who spend millions on the LED ads. The LED screen on Peace World Plaza, the second biggest in Guangzhou, cost advertisers RMB 302 million ($48.3 million) to secure a six-year user license starting from 2011.

In addition, the regulation is less likely to render any fruitful results as it does not include any fines or punishments even though discussions of financial incentives started in 2010. What’s more, the regulation left out two other major sources of light pollution: neon light and message scrollers. Neither was included under the narrative of the new regulation, the report said.

It’s unknown if the seemingly doomed regulation will be introduced in other cities in Guangdong, but Zhongshan should be the next in line to at least tighten the content displayed on their LED screens. A technician mistakenly played a 20-minute long pornographic film on a giant LED screen at Fuye Square in February last year.

Home page and content page credit:

  • Ray H

    Stick it to the man!

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