New rules on light pollution take effect in Czechia

New rules have just come into force in Czechia aiming to tackle the problem of light pollution. Their goal is to lower the negative impact on the health of people and wildlife by, for instance, setting a maximum level of illumination for street lighting.

Photo: Královská astronomická společnost

Over 80 percent of people around the world currently live under an artificially lit sky at night. In Europe and North America, the number is even higher, with artificial light reaching even the most remote regions of wildlife.

Light pollution has grown by at least 50 percent over the past 25 years and affects not only our health and environment but also our energy consumption, says Ruskin Hartley, director of the International Dark Sky Association, who recently attended a conference on light pollution in Brno:

“By some estimates, in Europe alone, we are emitting 38 terawatt hours of energy each year just to light the night sky. That’s estimated to be at least 10 billion wasted euros.

“In terms of human health, we grew up as all living things did under natural day night cycle that we have essentially disrupted both by spending all our daytime indoors but also by exposing ourselves to high levels of light at night.

Photo: Martina Schneibergová,  Radio Prague International

“The more we are learning about it the more we are learning that high levels of light pollution are associated with many of the ills in modern society.”

To address the problem, the Czech Ministry of the Environment has introduced a new set of rules, which aims to diminish the impact of excessive night lighting and protect both people and wildlife from the effects of light pollution.

The regulation, which came into force on Wednesday, is not legally binding, but acts as a guide for municipalities, for example when they are reconstructing public lighting, says Anna Pasková, head of the ministry’s Department of Environmental Policy and Sustainable Development:

Anna Pasková | Photo: Martina Schneibergová,  Radio Prague International

“This standard will prevent the installation of lights with stark white light. It won’t concern lamps that were installed in the past, but the new ones should be made according to the recommended rules, so as to limit the distracting light.”

The new set of regulations specifies, for example, the colour, intensity and direction of light for different environments. It also regulates illuminated billboards and LED panels, says Mrs Pasková:

“There’s what we call a sign brightness - how brightly a LED panel or a billboard can shine. However, the standard doesn’t require the billboards or signboards turned off at night. That is something that should be addressed in the future, whether it is necessary to keep them illuminated when there are just a few people outside.”

Photo: Martina Schneibergová,  Radio Prague International

The regulation of light pollution was one of the priorities of Czech EU presidency. Last October, experts from EU member states met at an international workshop in Brno and released an appeal for an EU-wide action on the problem.

Meanwhile, officials at the Ministry of the Environment are working on making the new regulations part of a binding decree in the near future.

Authors: Ruth Fraňková , Martin Srb
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