Vol. 5 Num 1017 Wed. April 11, 2007  

Daylight saving time: A positive initiative

It's late, but it's good that it is taking place. It will be a positive step if the present interim government of Bangladesh can implement "daylight saving time (DST)" in the country.

According to the last advisory council meeting of the caretaker government on April 4, the implementation of DST, which is obviously very important for not only reducing the present energy crisis but also for ensuring more flexibility in daily life, is likely to start very soon.

Imagine, office workers will have more sunlight to complete their daily routine work, children will get more chance to play outside, retailers and other business organizations will benefit from the extra afternoon sunlight, and the energy crisis can be managed.

In a statement to the advisory meeting, adviser to the Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, Tapan Chowdhury, said that the country could save on an average 250 megawatt power a day if they could start DST and zone-wise load-shedding across the country.

Obviously, DST does not change the length of the day. DST is the convention of advancing clocks so that afternoons have more daylight and mornings have less.

In DST, the clock jumps forward from 02:00 standard time to 03:00 DST, and the day has 23 hours, whereas in autumn the clock jumps backward from 02:00 DST to 01:00 standard time, repeating that hour, and the day has 25 hours.

Artificially delaying sunrise and sunset tends to increase the use of artificial light in the morning and reduce it in the evening. Daylight saving time has been around for most of this century, and even earlier.

Benjamin Franklin, while a minister to France, first suggested the idea in an essay titled "An economical project for diminishing the cost of light." The essay was first published in the "Journal de Paris" in April 1784. But it wasn't for more than a century after that that an Englishman, William Willett, suggested it again in 1907.

Willett was reportedly passing by a home where the shades were down, even though the sun was up. He wrote a pamphlet called "The waste of daylight" because of his observations. He wanted to move the clock ahead by 80 minutes, in four moves of 20 minutes each, during the spring and summer months. During the First World War, England recognized that the nation could save energy by changing the clocks according to Willett's idea.

Observing the British summer time, established by an Act of parliament in 1916, where clocks were put one hour ahead of Greenwich mean time (GMT), the US congress placed the country on DST for seven months in 1918 and 1919.

The Uniform Time Act of 1966 (15 US Code Section 260a) created DST to begin on the last Sunday of April and to end on the last Sunday of October. Any area that wanted to be exempt from DST could do so by passing a local ordinance. The law was amended in 1986 to begin DST on the first Sunday in April. According to Mining Co. guide to geography, DST is now observed in about 70 countries throughout the world.

DST increases opportunities for outdoor leisure activities during afternoon sunlight hours, and offers more opportunity to shift apparent daylight from morning to evening so that early morning daylight is not wasted.

One of the biggest reasons for changing the clocks to DST is that it saves energy. Energy use, and the demand for electricity for lighting homes, is directly connected to bed-time waking up time. Bed-time is always late evening through the year. Everyone turns off the lights and TV when he/she goes to bed. People will use less electricity if they stay fewer hours at home during the longer days of spring and summer. Most people plan outdoor activities in the extra daylight hours.

In the average home, 25 percent of all the electricity is used for lighting and small appliances, such as TVs, VCRs and stereos. A good percentage of energy consumed by lighting and appliances occurs in the evening when families are home. By moving the clock ahead by one hour, it is possible to cut the amount of electricity we consume each day.

Similarly, markets need not be opened for so long in the late evening. DST increases retail sales and business development. According to the study of the US Department of Transportation in 1970, DST reduced the country's electricity usage by 1% during March and April.

If, at present, Bangladesh can save around 400 MW of power daily by ordering shops and businesses to close by seven pm, applying DST can achieve more regarding the power management.

DST not only saves energy but also prevents traffic injuries and crimes. It allows more people to travel home from work and school in daylight, which is much safer than darkness. Similarly, it reduces people's exposure to various crimes, which are more common in darkness than in light.

In a study in the county of Cheshire, UK, between 1983 and 1993, risk of pedestrian injury for all ages was reduced by 16% after the change to DST, while in the US, except for Alaska, Hawaii, Indiana and Arizona, between 1987 and 1991 an estimated 727 lives were saved by DST, a reduction of 5.1% for pedestrian injuries to all ages.

In the 1970s, the US Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) found a reduction of 10% to 13% in Washington, D.C.'s violent crime rate during DST.

DST provides more afternoon sunlight for outdoor exercise, which can contribute greatly to overall health. It also influences health by altering sunlight exposure; whether this is beneficial depends on one's location and daily schedule.

However, many of us can say that DST can adversely affect farmers and others whose hours are set by the sun, or it may not be properly beneficial because its mornings are darker during winter. Workers may have no sunlit leisure time, and children may need to leave for school in the dark.

In the winter, the afternoon DST advantage is offset by the morning's need for more lighting. In spring and fall, the advantage is less than one hour. So, DST saves energy for lighting in all seasons of the year, expect for the four darkest months (November, December, January and February), when the afternoon advantage is offset by the need for lighting because of late sunrise.

There is no doubt that DST can help to keep up with the world to achieve national interest just by adding an hour in summer.

If the time is extended by an hour in summer, the sun will set at around 8-8.30 pm in Dhaka, which will save about an hour's worth of electricity. People will turn on their lights an hour later (same goes for the street lights) and save a considerable amount of electricity, which may be used for production purposes.

It should be implemented ASAP without much discussion among so called "experts."

Ripan Kumar Biswas is a freelance writer based in New York