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2022-10-14 09:45:56

A northwestern Chinese city announced a landmark regulation for protecting its night skies, as authorities aim to reduce light pollution and create an ambient environment for astronomical observation in a designated monitoring area.

Lenghu, located on the Tibetan Plateau, has designated a two-part dark sky preservation area — made up of “core” and “buffer” zones — along with rules controlling the brightness and direction of artificial light sources, according to the regulation published Thursday. The rule, which goes into effect in January 2023, is applicable for areas within a 100-kilometer radius of the astronomical observatory in Lenghu.

The Tibetan Plateau is the highest plateau in the world, providing a conducive environment for astronomy-related studies. Areas around Lenghu in Qinghai province are said to have “unusually clear local skies,” with 70% of nights cloudless and clear.

“It is an imperative move and fits the protection needs,” Zhao Lei, a provincial lawmaker, told China News.

The concept of dark sky preservation in China has been gaining momentum since 2016, when the country started to build the first dark sky reserve on the Tibetan Plateau to raise awareness about curbing excessive lighting.

Qinghai is currently on the way to constructing a world-class astronomical observatory site, with 32 astronomical telescopes set to be put to use by 2022. Experts expect the construction could help scientists break the bottleneck in monitoring space through the use of optical telescopes.

According to Thursday’s guideline, all construction within the protected site must seek official approval, while existing lighting facilities that do not meet standards should “come up with a solution.” Violators will be subject to fines ranging from 100 yuan to 500,000 yuan ($14-$69,700).

China’s rapid urbanization has created a light pollution crisis in recent years, affecting human health, transportation safety, and wildlife protection. A 2019 report published by the Chinese Geographical Science journal found over 75% of Chinese land was exposed to light pollution, while less than 13% was suitable for building a dark sky reserve and was located primarily in western and northern areas.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: VCG)