china launchesChina launched its first “dark sky reserve” for astronomical observation in the Tibetan prefecture of Ngari, bordering Nepal and India, officials said on Thursday.

The reserve covers an area of 2,500 square kilometre and aims to limit light pollution by stepping up protection of dark-sky resources for education and tourism development, the China Daily reported.

It was jointly launched by the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation and the regional government of Tibet.

Wang Wenyong, head of the legal affairs department with the foundation, said in a news briefing that the launch of the preserve is only the first step in protecting the area from light pollution.

The reserve will also try to seek accreditation from the International Dark-Sky Association, a non-profit organisation based in the US that is devoted to preserving and protecting the night time environment and dark skies globally.

Wang Xiaohua, head of the Chinese branch of the International Dark-Sky Association and a leader of the Ngari reserve programme, said such areas were important for promoting astronomy.

Ngari is among the best sites for astronomical observation on earth, due to its high altitude and large number of cloudless days throughout the year.

However, the recent inflow of people from other areas has given rise to increasing urbanisation, and thus the associated risk of more light pollution.

“If we do not take action now to preserve the area, we risk losing one of the best astronomical sites on earth,” said Wang.

The foundation has also signed an agreement with authorities in Tibet’s Nagchu prefecture to establish a night sky park, which will feature limited lighting facilities and a special area for astronomical observation.