Shanghai has become the first city in China to legislate against light pollution, and with the newly revised municipal environmental protection regulation taking effect on Monday, offenders will face fines up to 50,000 yuan ($7,400).
Dubbed a "city without night", the East China metropolis is famous for dazzling neon lights, LED billboards and light shows across its commercial areas and tourist sites, but the excessive artificial lighting has brought negative effects.
Wei Rui, deputy director of the city construction and environmental protection committee of the Shanghai People's Congress, told China Central Television that the Shanghai citizen hotline received 3,341 complaints related to light pollution in 2021, an increase of 84 percent compared with 2017.
The new Shanghai Environmental Protection Regulation requires the Shanghai Housing and Urban-Rural Development Commission and the city appearance and landscaping bureau to formulate standards of illumination intensity for different areas based on the levels of social and economic development, traffic safety and other factors.
The regulation stresses the strict control of reflective materials, such as glass curtain walls on the exterior of buildings, and such projects need to be reviewed by the environmental protection department regarding the effect of reflected light on the local environment.
New lighting installations have also been restricted and must comply with illumination standards to ensure traffic safety and that residents in the neighborhood are not disturbed.
Lighting devices for night construction must use shades or hoods to prevent direct light shining onto local residences. Even for cityscape lighting around the Bund, North Bund and Lujiazui financial area, related departments should notify the public of the length of the light shows, according to the regulation.
Shanghai was the first city in China to pass local standards on the use of decorative lights in 2004, but due to the lack of enforcement and punishment criteria, the standards haven't made much difference in preventing artificial lights from glaring excessively in the night sky, according to Wei.
She said one of the spotlights of the new regulation was that it clearly states the punishment for offenders. Those who install lighting against the regulation and fail to remove it as requested by authorities will face a fine ranging from 5,000 to 50,000 yuan.
In recent years, Chinese legal and environmental experts have called for legislation against light pollution. Last year, Ban Yuxia, a deputy to the National People's Congress, proposed to the government to accelerate formulating a special law to deal with light pollution.
The Ministry of Ecology and Environment replied to Ban that it will work with the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development to improve the standards and supervision system on light pollution, and actively push legislatures to include articles of light pollution into environmental laws.