Light Pollution and Legal Reforms Needed

Authors: Gururaj Bhat, Sri Prasunna College Of Law Akshay Dalvi, ILS Law College

Editor: Mohit Meena, Gujarat National Law University

Introduction: -

Years ago, we could walk outside the streets and see the milky way galaxy arch across the night sky. The stars were brighter and the sky was clean. Eventually, light and energy started to become the part and parcel of essential commodity for human being. The gradual revolution in industries and living styles resulted in late working hours which lead to the increase in the usage of light. The much need of industrial revolution and urbanization although had a commendable effect on society. But as it has truly said that everything comes with a cost. A cost to pay eventually or gradually or immediately. The speedy changes in society with the industrial as well as urban revolution came with the long lasting and ignorant cost of pollution. The increase in pollution made drastic and severe effects on every ecosystem as well as living being.


However, the injustice caused in every field has always found its equity in the eyes of law. The revolutionary changes in society resulted in evolutionary changes in law as well. Accordingly, the Bhopal Gas Tragedy awaken the need the Environmental Law. The Environmental Protection Act of 1986 came into effect to counter check the need to peaceful and non-harming as well as free environment. It is today considered as the fundamental right of every citizen today. The Act includes all types of pollution and safety measures as well as remedies and gives right to individual to claim his/her right under this Act. But the most neglected form of pollution that has simultaneous effects on every other aspects of pollution is The Light Pollution.


What is light pollution?

Hollan J. in Dark Sky Conference 2008, stated that:

“Light pollution is the presence of artificial light in otherwise dark conditions. The inappropriate or excessive use of artificial light is known as light pollution.”


Most of us are familiar with air, water, smoke, noise pollution. But the least concerned and neglected term light pollution has been caught the attention of every environmentalist these days. If you live in an urban or suburban area all you have to do to see this type of pollution is going out the night and look up at the sky. According to the 2016 ground breaking report “World atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness” 80 percent of the population lives under sky glow. Artificial lights over power the darkness and our cities glow at night, disrupting natural day-night pattern and shifting the delicate balance of our environment.


In this article we are going to summarise the effects and immediate need for legal reforms for light pollution.


Effects of light pollution: -


1. Excessive lighting in outdoor areas can cause a lot of glare and thus can impact visibility of drivers and pedestrians.

2. It causes disruption to eco system and it is not good for various flora and fauna.

3. It causes sleep disorders and other health issues such as increasing risks for obesity, depression, diabetes and more.

4. The most dangerous effect is that many of our hormones are released on night when darkness is there but due to this many of our hormones are not released leading to stress, anxiety and depression. One such example is Melatonin which is released in darkness.


Legal Reforms for Light Pollution: -

There is no law which recognises Light Pollution till now, while looking at the effects of this pollution there is a serious need for recognising this under the law and implementing penalties. It is one of the most neglected form of pollution with such harmful effects. Till now, it is not seen as any harmful pollution because the effects are not easy to notice but in the future it will have some disorders and its better to be planned then facing issues and then making new laws.

Light Pollution as Nuisance: -

The common law for nuisance has become one of the most common methods of asserting a private environmental claim.

A common nuisance isn’t excused on grounds that it causes some convenience or advantage. For any complaint of nuisance, it is well settled that the law will only protect the rights of a person of ‘ordinary sensibility’. This means that the light complained of must of a sufficiently strong intensity to interfere with an occupation which is ‘no more than ordinary susceptible to light’.

The courts and other local authorities should be encouraged to hear the complaint of nuisance regarding Light Pollution. The measurement of such nuisance should be considered by setting some standard measures to such propagation of light and should be considered as the hinderance by the person who is causing such pollution.

Domestic as well as usage of lights in the festivals: -

India is country of festivals, where Diwali, Dusshera and Ram Navami are celebrated on the greatest platform. The usages of lights in these festivals are immeasurable. Diwali is considered as the festival of lights, where whole streets, home and every corner of the country is covered under the lights. In these festivals the most basic form of expression of happiness people use are crackers which is not justifiable as crackers are considered the most dangerous elements towards the pollution. With light pollution, crackers also cause smoke, air and sound pollution. There is an immediate need to reduce or to keep check on the selling as well as burning of the crackers. Less the crackers more the free environment. The Diwali is not only the single festival where light is misused. The other festivals such as Dusshera and Ganesh Chaturthi where rallies and crackers or such kind of explosions are made to express the gratitude towards the Lord. Without hurting the sentiments of the people, we can limit the usage of lights and cracker by reduction of watts in every bulb or lights, maybe it of streets or of any other places shall affect to reduce the usage by itself. The lights and halogens and other projector lights used in Indian weddings causes glares and over illumination in the surrounding. The over projections where the lights are directed in the upward direction can be stopped. We can also set the time like after 12 P.M. it is not permissible to use the fancy lights, you have to switch it off and same for the crackers.

Town and Country Planning: -

Apart from the legal reforms we also need Town and Country planning. There are two aspects of Town and Country Planning; strategic planning and development control. Strategic planning includes policies that are incorporated into statutory plans, whereas development control is implication of plans and authorize or refuse permission to develop. They also have authority to take actions against the breach of law. A light pollution policy in the development plan is an important factor in the decision-making process. While planning or preparing any development for any town, it should be the duty of the Authorities to include Light management as one of the primary aspects. The light propagation and infusion from the street lamps and other advertising hoardings should be taken into consideration before giving the permissions. Measures should be taken to reduce the emulsion of light from street lights in certain areas where there is no need of any light. Authority should take measures to check whether the lights that are installed are of given reduced watts. This may result in less consumption of energy and electricity.

France: -

A new law came into effect in France on the first day of 2019 that sets an important standard in western Europe for the protection of night time darkness through controls on the emission of light in outdoor spaces. The Key Provisions includes: -

• Outdoor Lighting Curfew

• Restriction on emission of lights

• Allowable illumination

• Prohibition of Light Trespass, etc.

Conclusion: -

To summarize the legal reforms, the first step towards it should be creating awareness about the light pollution. Reducing the emulsion of light and reducing the power of bulbs legally should be considered as the primary aspect towards reform. Instituting an authority to check over such issues regarding the light pollution should be considered as the prime and basic aspect of it. Many countries like France, Korea and USA have included the legislation regarding Light Pollution, which should be adopted by India as well.


Many decades ago, people used to think air pollution is not something serious as there were cleaner air and neglected it and if we go more in the past then water pollution was not considered something serious as there was abundance of fresh water and here we are selling fresh water bottles. It will not take much time when we have serious problems and disorders with the light pollution while looking at the technological advancement. So, the need for the action is must.

References: -

1) International Dark Sky Association (IDA) - https://www.darksky.org/

2) Public Law Net - http://public-law.net/publaw/view.aspx?id=1818

3) Environmental Pollution Agency -

https://yosemite.epa.gov/sab/sabproduct.nsf/CD5C8191E82D937D8525741F006252FD/$File/Attachment+to+Comments+from+Stephen+Davis+EPEC+4-9-08.pdf

4) Globe at Night

https://www.globeatnight.org/lightpollution.php#:~:text=Light%20pollution%20is%20excessive%2C%20misdirected,health%20effects%20and%20wastes%20energy.

5) Comparative and Planning Law Relating to Light Pollution Control in England and Other Jurisdiction - https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/b296/35a2c351ea01ca9092fd883a1f22c80026dd.pdf

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