Skip to main content

Development indicator? Phenomenon of light pollution unheard of by Indian authorities

By Shankar Sharma* 

The increasing illumination of the skyline in our towns and cities due to artificial lighting should be a major environmental concern in addition to the pollution/contamination of air, water, soil and noise.
“The Guardian” report “City of London proposing to make skyscrapers dim their lights at night” says, "City (London) officials are concerned about energy wastage and light pollution caused by the unnecessary use of lights in office buildings that have few or no workers after a certain time of night."
But here in India, our authorities seem to think the more the light in the night sky, the more it is an indication of development. Light pollution seems to be a phenomenon unheard of for our authorities. What a way to look at our life and ecology!
To quote from an expert report, "Light pollution, or artificial light at night, is the excessive or poor use of artificial outdoor light, and it disrupts the natural patterns of wildlife, contributes to the increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, disrupts human sleep, and obscures the stars in the night sky."
In addition, the same is one of the multiple ways in which we are wasting electrical energy, and hence, leading to multiple ecological issues, including Climate Change. The percentage of annual electrical energy used for artificial lighting on our country is not inconsiderable.
I assisted a group of engineering college at Mysore city few years ago in their final year project which focused on the illumination level in public places in that city. Actual measurement of light intensity in about 10 public places during nights indicated that the illumination was about 2 to 2.5 times the guided value by bureau of Indian Standards. It will not be too far fetched to extrapolate the same level of wasted artificial light energy across our towns and cities.
It is estimated in India (by Lighting India Magazine), lighting constitutes around 18% of total annual energy (electrical energy?) developed/ produced. Hence, the enormity of the benefits/savings feasible by adequately focusing on public lighting should become evidently clear.
A scientific report carried on the website of National Library of Medicine says:
"According to a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2013, almost 20% of electricity consumption and 6% of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions worldwide were attributed to electricity for lighting. Lighting is one of the major end-use of electricity that accounts for approximately 48% of the building electricity in the commercial sector and 28% of the building electricity in the residential sector globally in 1997. Due to the long operating hours and a large number of lamps installed in the commercial sector, its electrical energy demand for lighting tends to be higher than the residential sector. Without a rapid change in policies and practical implementations to transition to energy-efficient lighting such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs), the global energy consumption for lighting is expected to rise by 60% by 2030 and this will also increase the energy-related CO2 emissions, thus causing more warming of the Earth and further climate changes in the future.”
Because of the obvious relevance of minimising the wastage of electrical energy through outdoor lighting, civil society groups need to effectively draw the attention of our authorities to the phenomenon of light pollution.
It may not be an exaggeration to state that minimising the wastage of such artificial light energy in India can save several thousand hectares of thick forests/ vegetation, and several million gallons of fresh water each year, in addition to several other ecological and economic benefits.
Can we hope that the entire society provides adequate focus on such critically positive economic activities; as compared to building ghastly ropeways, tall statues, glitzy airports etc.?
*Power & Climate Policy Analyst


Colin Henshaw said…
A study carried in the Italian town of Certaldo revealed that it wasted 60% of its energy consumption on street lighting. If this is expanded up to include all the cities on the plane, then the degree of energy abuse must be absolutely enormous, and it will be a major contributor to climate change.

37) Fiaschi, D., Bandinelli, R., Conti, S., A case study for energy issues of public buildings and utilities in a small municipality: Investigation of possible improvements and integration with renewables. Applied Energy, 97, 101 – 114, September 2012.


Importance of Bangladesh for India amidst 'growing might' of China in South Asia

By Samara Ashrat*  The basic key factor behind the geopolitical importance of Bangladesh is its geographical location. The country shares land borders with Myanmar and India. Due to its geographical position, Bangladesh is a natural link between South Asia and Southeast Asia.  The country is also a vital geopolitical ally to India, in that it has the potential to facilitate greater integration between Northeast India and Mainland India. Not only that, due to its open access to the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh has become significant to both China and the US.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

'BBC film shows only tip of iceberg': Sanjiv Bhatt's daughter speaks at top US press club

By Our Representative   The United States' premier journalists' organisation, the National Press Club (NPC), has come down heavily on Prime Minister Narendra Modi for recent "attacks on journalists in India." Speaking at the screening of an episode of the BBC documentary “India: The Modi Question,” banned in India, in the club premises, NPC President Eileen O’Reilly said, “Since Modi came to power we have watched with frustration and disappointment as his regime has suppressed the rights of its citizens to a free and independent news media."

Chinese pressure? Left stateless, Rohingya crisis result of Myanmar citizenship law

By Dr Shakuntala Bhabani*  A 22-member team of Myanmar immigration officials visited Rohingya refugee camps in Cox's Bazar to verify more than 400 Rohingya refugees as part of a pilot repatriation project. Does it hold out any hope for the forcibly displaced people to return to their ancestral homes in the Rakhine state of Myanmar? Only time will tell.

China ties up with India, Bangladesh to repatriate Rohingyas; Myanmar unwilling

By Harunur Rasid*  We now have a new hope, thanks to news reports that were published in the Bangladeshi dailies recently. Myanmar has suddenly taken initiatives to repatriate Rohingyas. As part of this initiative, diplomats from eight countries posted in Yangon were flown to Rakhine last week. Among them were diplomats from Bangladesh, India and China.

Over-stressed? As Naveen Patnaik turns frail, Odisha 'moves closer' to leadership crisis

By Sudhansu R Das  Not a single leader in Odisha is visible in the horizon who can replace Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. He has ruled Odisha for nearly two and half decades. His father, Biju Patnaik, had built Odisha; he was a daring pilot who saved the life of Indonesia’s Prime Minister Sjahrir and President Sukarno when the Dutch army blocked their exit.

Natural farming: Hamirpur leads the way to 'huge improvement' in nutrition, livelihood

By Bharat Dogra*  Santosh is a dedicated farmer who along with his wife Chunni Devi worked very hard in recent months to convert a small patch of unproductive land into a lush green, multi-layer vegetable garden. This has ensured year-round supply of organically grown vegetables to his family as well as fetched several thousand rupees in cash sales.

Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Ban Ki-moon, others ask Bangladesh PM to 'protect' Yunus

Counterview Desk  A campaign has been launched to support Bangladesh-based economist, micro-finance guru and Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, seeking signatures from citizens across the globe in order to “protect” his work, life and safety.

Electricity sharing opens up new window for India’s eastern neighbourhood engagement

By Sufian Asif* Today, challenges like climate change, pandemics, energy reliance, economic crisis, and many more are concerning us. No nation can overcome these obstacles without the assistance and collaboration of other nations. Most importantly, many of these problems have international repercussions. South Asia is facing much more difficulty when compared to other regions. In South Asia, we have some regional organizations, but they are ineffective.