The problem of Light Pollution in urban and rural areas by Andreas Eleftheriou.



The night-time environment is a precious natural resource, and the dark sky represents a historical and cultural heritage that should be preserved and receive appropriate protection.

With the excessive use of LEDs, no filter will be able to restrict the problem in terms of stargazing and astrophotography. On the occasion of "Earth Hour" on March 27, 2021, many friends and acquaintances, candidate Members of Parliament, and politicians posted wishes, intentions, and photos with candles on social media, in an effort to participate in this global initiative. It is positive that there is awareness of the issue of light pollution, but the approach to addressing the problem in Cyprus has been negative so far.

Below, we highlight the serious impacts of light pollution in both urban and rural areas, effects that affect both humans and the environment, as well as flora and fauna, as documented by the International Dark-Sky Association.

The International Dark-Sky Association is an international organization that has had a branch in Cyprus in recent years ( Its purpose is to collect measurements and evaluate the problem of light pollution in Cyprus, inform the public, and propose solutions to address the problem.

The human connection with the night sky, the questions raised by the motion of celestial bodies, and the beauty of the view of the Galaxy, constellations, meteors, and all celestial phenomena have been a driving force and inspiration for the sciences, arts, and philosophy for millennia.

The modern urban dweller often grows up in an artificial environment detached from nature, particularly in our case, detached from the night sky. Today, very few of us have seen our galaxy from the dark sky of the Cypriot countryside, and the visibility of familiar constellations in cities is diminishing every day. The formations of constellations have disappeared, except perhaps for one or two, like the Great Bear and Orion. Of course, our own Galaxy is no longer visible, and its sight has become a distant memory for all Cypriot cities.

Observing deep-sky celestial objects is often something that only happens a few times a year during trips to the countryside.

It is concerning that the problem quickly affects more and more the province and the countryside. Light pollution has significant impacts on the environment, especially on fauna and flora, as well as indirectly through increased energy consumption. Excessive artificial lighting can affect ecosystems in various ways.

Indicatively, we mention the following:

  • Difficulty in animal orientation. A characteristic example is the case of Caretta turtles, where newborns orient themselves towards the sea guided by the reflection of light on the water.
  • The same applies to birds that are misled by bright and tall buildings.
  • Effects on behavior and physiology of nocturnal animals, as well as an impact on plants that bloom at night.
  • Impact on zooplankton with indirect effects on lake ecosystems and water resources.
  • Indirectly, light pollution affects the environment through the energy waste it causes.
  • Electrical energy waste directly involves increased production of greenhouse gases and contributes to the greenhouse effect. Energy waste for lighting is also part of modern energy overconsumption, which leads to the depletion of Earth's energy resources and the greenhouse effect. The real causes of the problem are excessive and improper lighting.

As a result, large amounts of energy are wasted either for lighting that is lost, for example, aiming at the sky, or for lighting spaces where it is unnecessary. This results in significant electrical energy waste with the corresponding economic cost.

Energy waste from the government and public entities for lighting public spaces and buildings is very common. This burden not only causes financial damage to all citizens but also constitutes a waste of valuable energy resources.

Beyond the impact on nature, excessive urban lighting also affects human life in the city. A common phenomenon in cities is that excessive lighting causes discomfort to citizens. While the right amount of lighting helps us see better during dark hours, excessive lighting causes glare and reduces our visual acuity.

A common occurrence is the use of powerful projectors for advertising signs or other bright lights used for various purposes, most commonly for "security" lights.

Dazzling lighting and visual glare reduce the quality of life in urban environments, both aesthetically and practically.

Proper and efficient lighting is the key to addressing light pollution.

In order to achieve an efficient lighting system for a space, it is necessary to carefully follow these two steps:

Determining lighting needs. Initially, the recording of actual lighting needs should be done. This includes identifying the areas that need to be illuminated, determining when lighting is necessary, and specifying the required light intensity.

Selection of appropriate materials (light fixtures and bulbs). Choosing the right materials is crucial. Light fixtures should be designed to direct light towards the intended area and prevent light pollution towards the sky. Bulbs should be of the appropriate type and power to avoid energy waste, excessive brightness, or glare.

As an indicative example, let's consider the use of LED bulbs: With the notion that LEDs are environmentally friendly and cheaper due to their low energy consumption, they are being purchased and installed in much larger quantities than before, resulting in a significant increase in light pollution!

In major European cities such as Madrid, Paris, and Berlin, special regulations are in place for how public spaces should be illuminated. Modern street lighting technologies, which are gaining more supporters, aim to ensure the proper use of public lighting while simultaneously saving energy and reducing light pollution. The regulations cover the positioning of the bulbs to avoid causing disturbance to nearby buildings, the angle of placement to minimize light scattering, and the color temperature of the light used.

We would like to see similar initiatives in Cypriot cities. Solutions to light pollution exist and are not difficult to implement. It simply requires awareness and the political initiative of Municipal Councils and relevant authorities.

The photograph has been taken in Limassol using special filters that block the emissions of mercury/sodium caused by conventional street lighting bulbs.

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