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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Light Pollution!

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Today’s environment is in the grip of a peculiar type of atmospheric pollution which like other pollution is a byproduct of the modern development geared by heavy consumption and wastage of energy. I am talking about the least concerned and most avoided type of pollution – the Light Pollution.

Is light a pollutant? You may ask. Going by the definition of pollution that mixing of undesired or unwanted matter or energy with any of our natural resources to alter its natural quality is called as pollution, we may very easily justify that light at nights; yes the “sky glow” is affecting the atmosphere and living components very seriously and most adversely. SO, call it light pollution and make up your mind to reduce it.Indoor light in excess intensity harms our eyes and disturbs our mind. The excess intensity of light diffusing into the atmosphere harms the biotic components including nocturnal birds and insects. Let us examine the adverse impacts of light pollution in a systematic way.

The Sky -glow : Skyline of Mumbai at night (credit- flickr)

•Excess intensity of light produced on earth diffuses in sky to produce an effect known as “sky glow”. The sky glow interferes with the task of astronomers who remain engaged in observing planets and stars. The glowing or over illuminated sky makes it difficult for them to observe the sky and bodies located in it. This is the reason why observatories are located at places far away from the illuminated urban areas. According to N Ratnashree, the Director of Nehru planetarium- when the first observational facilities of the 20th century were coming up in India they were being shifted far away from cities. The observatory in Hyderabad was shifted to Rangapur, and the Indian Institute of Astrophysics set up an observatory at Hanle, in the Himalyas. The Uttar Pradesh State Observatory shifted its location from Varanasi and set up an observatory at Nainital. But the location became so polluted with light that the new telescope of this observatory, which is largest in India, is now being built far away at Devsthal.

•Unwanted light emissions kill turtles as it alters the natural processes of their lives. Installation of mast lights at beaches is most dangerous for the sea turtles as they prefer dark areas for their stay and lying of eggs.

•Light pollution is very dangerous for insects as they live and breed in dark places. The bright light attracts insects at nights as a result of which they fly close to the source of light. It is due to the source of light that they become dazzled, scorched and burnt. It has been reported that about150 billion nocturnal insects are perished due to light pollution in Germany every year.

•The artificial light in the sky or the sky glow confuses the migratory birds and they collide with high structures constructed by human beings on the earth. Rather, the migratory birds forget their route of migration in the illuminated sky, fly in wrong direction and are killed in the mid way due to some or the other dangers.It has been reported that one billion birds per year are killed in North America alone as they collide with sky scrappers in the illuminated sky.

•Light pollution seriously disrupts the growth of plants.

•Light pollution interferes with the biological clocks of many animals and makes it imbalanced.

•Light pollution causes psychosomatic disturbances and breast cancers among women living in highly illuminated zones.

In view of dangers from the light pollution mentioned above it is important for concerned authorities to take up appropriate measures so as to check the diffusion of city lights into the sky and enforce control over unnecessary emission of light of high intensity. Appropriate technologies to measure light pollution in urban areas should be employed and rules should be framed so as to keep control over the emission of lights beyond the accepted limit. The concerned bodies of the government should fix standards and should take up appropriate measures for the monitoring of light pollution.

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