Light pollution, too

December 05, 2021

The myriad electronic billboards that stare you down from all parts of the city roads, are damaging to human eye and brain

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Way too bright to ignore. — Image courtesy of

Lahore, the fabled city of gardens, is today the hub of all kinds of pollution. Its air quality is decidedly the worst in the world, most of its streets are littered with garbage heaps, and the roads that were widened by felling hundreds of trees are routinely clogged with traffic that isn’t just emitting pollutants in the air but also causing noise pollution. And, if that wasn’t enough, the city now has electronic billboards — in the name of development. Every major billboard in the city has been replaced with a big digital screen. The precious few that remain will soon be.

These highly illuminated, large display screens run motion advertisements of products by different brands. At some places, you find a number of screens fixed to poles next to one another other. They offer good entertainment if you are stuck at a busy traffic signal, but they can cause road accidents if the drivers got distracted or blind.

Viewed from a capitalist lens, these may present a modern image of the city. And, for all we know, this venture may just be cost-effective, as it would likely have spared the government a lot of money and waste of plastic sheets in making flexes/ banners for one-time use. At what cost?

One kind of pollution has replaced another. The light pollution caused by these glaring diodes can blind you at night time, besides causing eye harms of another ilk. These sources of artificial, unwanted light are both disruptive and damaging.

Experts claim that the lights are 10 times brighter than the conventionally-lit billboards and, hence, can badly affect the chemical processes in human brain as well as any animals and birds in the surroundings.

Since these are now common to every big city of the world, a lot of research work is available on them. Experts say that the e-billboards are 10 times brighter than the conventionally-lit billboards and, hence, can badly affect the chemical processes in human brain and also disrupt ecosystems.

Among humans, the documented side effects include photosensitive epilepsy, retinal damage and increased stress and annoyance. Besides, they can disrupt our bodies’ circadian rhythm and sleep cycles.

As birds tend to avoid the luminescent territories of these e-billboards, because these cause them disorientation, you don’t find any bird sitting on them unlike in the good old times.

Having said that, light pollution can be got rid of within a day, as this requires only a few control measures by the state. For instance, a regulator can mandate that the brightness of these e-billboards be adjusted according to the time of the day — it should be gradually dimmed as the sun begins to set. Otherwise it will disturb the eyes.

But since such nuances generally remain lost on the government, there is little hope that any measures will be taken in this regard anytime soon. Till then, we must contend with light pollution.

The writer is a graduate of English literature from the University of the Punjab

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