Czech Republic Enacts World’s First National Light Pollution Law

Staffposted: 04:50 pm
18 March 2002 In February, the Czech Republic became the first country to enact national legislation aimed at eliminating light pollution.

Known as the “Protection of the Atmosphere Act,” the bill passed both houses of parliament (Chamber of Deputies and Senate) and was signed into law by President Vaclav Havel on February 27, 2002. It takes effect June 1, 2002, and addresses light and other kinds of air pollution.

This news was announced Monday at the annual conference of the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) in Tucson, Arizona. The group, which has grown to more than 4,000 members in 69 countries across the globe since 1988, works to combat light pollution to preserve and protect the nocturnal environment.

The IDA, a diverse group of astronomers, lighting designers and manufacturers, environmentalists, ecologists, government officials — even ophthalmologists — addresses the issue of light pollution with information sheets, videos, newsletters and media-savvy lobbying.

Dr. David L. Crawford, astronomer and volunteer executive director of the IDA, views the Czech Republic legislation as “a great leap forward” in combating light pollution around the globe. “We applaud the Czechs and are committed to helping other governments enact similar legislation,” Crawford said. “Fully shielded light fixtures not only help preserve the beauty of the starry sky, but they also illuminate more efficiently and allow people to see better at night.”

The new law defines “light pollution” as “every form of illumination by artificial light which is dispersed outside the areas it is dedicated to, particularly if directed above the level of the horizon.” Under the law, Czech Republic citizens and organizations are obligated to “take measures to prevent the occurrence of light pollution of the air.”

The landmark legislation closely resembles the “Lombardy Law,” which was enacted in the Lombardy region of Italy after 25,000 citizens signed petitions demanding action against obtrusive outdoor lighting.

Key to compliance with the new Czech Republic law is the use of fully shielded light fixtures. The IDA defines these as “fixtures that emit no light above the horizontal direction.” Citizens and organizations found in violation of the law’s anti-light pollution provisions will be subject to fines ranging from 500 to 150,000 Czech crowns.

Czech Republic astronomer Jenik Hollan, a member of the IDA, was instrumental in promoting and drafting the legislation. “Support was very good and no serious objections have appeared,” said Hollan, a resident of Brno who works at the Nicholas Copernicus Observatory and Planetarium. “Many of my fellow citizens are as concerned as I am about the glare created by poorly designed lighting; they’re happy action was taken.”

Pavel Suchan, of the Stefanik Observatory in Prague, and the Czech Astronomical Society also lobbied for the new legislation, which Hollan says is already paying off: “In downtown Brno, fully shielded fixtures are becoming the norm and the improvement is spectacular.”

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