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Billboard monster in Dhaka City
Kamrun Nahar

The advertisers seem to be in charge of Dhaka city streets. They post huge billboards in the middle of many streets in residential areas to the distress of public who do not want advice on what shampoo to buy and what beverage to drink.
According to city planners, billboards cause vision pollution as many of those are wrongly placed. "The advertisers need to police themselves and exercise restraint in choosing locations for posting billboards," says Prof Nazrul Islam, a teacher of Dhaka University's Geography and Environment Science department.
Allegations are there that many advertisers in connivance with a section of Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) officials are posting billboards all around, giving the city a dirty look.
As the advertisers hold political power and wealth, there is none to restrict them from hanging billboards anywhere they like. As a result, the sizes of the billboards in Dhaka are getting larger day by day.
While visiting different city areas like Mohammadpur, Azimpur, Dhanmondi, Lalmatia, Farmgate, Mirpur, Malibagh and Maghbazar, the News Network correspondent found most of the city roads have huge billboards hung above them.
Along the main roads many arterial roads entered different areas of the capital. Originating from these arterial roads, innumerable 'neighbourhood roads' got into residential areas. Numerous billboards are hung at the edge of every 'neigbourhood road'.
Take Dhanmondi area for example. On every neighbourhood road of Satmasjid Road, there are over 20 billboards of Eastern University, Ibn Sina Medical Imaging Centre, International Islamic University of Chittagong, Renaissance Heart Foundation, Visa International, Priyanka Community Centre and many more. Most of these billboards are not approved.
Dhanmondi, Mohammadpur, Azimpur, Mirpur, Uttara, Gulshan and Banani are not unique. The surroundings of every major road have this irritating scenario.
Asked why such big billboards have been hung in the middle of the streets, an official of Presidency College at Dhanmondi says big billboards are used so that the students can easily recognise the road on which the college is situated. This is actually done for publicity because the existence of an institute depends on publicity.
According to DCC advertisement rules 2003, individuals or organisations concerned must write on the billboards -- both permanent and temporary -- their names and the authorities' approval memo number and the date of approval. If anyone fails to do so, the authorities can remove the billboard. Despite the fact, most of the billboards on Dhanmondi's Satmasjid Road have been hung without these required information.
Bangladesh National Building Code says that the footing of all billboards must be earthquake tolerant and be able to withstand gusty wind and storm. It says ground billboards have to be made of nonflammable ingredients and be placed six feet above the ground. But the advertisers have little respect for these rules.
Violation of the rules leads to the cancellation of the approval, confiscation of security money, blacklisting and filing of a case with the magistrate court.
Asked about the enforcement of the ad rules, DCC law officer Masudur Rahman says, "The process of removing illegal billboards is underway. Some unauthorised billboards have already been pulled down. The drive will continue."
About regulating billboard placing, a DCC ward commissioner from Dhanmondi area recognises, "Most billboards in my ward are unauthorised and they are there with the support of some dishonest DCC employees. The rules under which the signboards were approved do not exist any longer."
He says, "DCC revenue department hardly monitors how these billboards are hung. Had it performed its duty the number of unapproved billboards would have been much lower."
Shireen Jahan, a commissioner representing three DCC wards (50, 51 and 52), says it is necessary to regulate the billboard placing and to do that DCC must have a high-powered committee. "A few days back, we removed some billboards only to be reinstated few days later. DCC needs to monitor the things regularly."
DCC transport economist (Zone 5) Mahfuzur Rahman says neither a single billboard has been approved nor the approval of any has been renewed since the ad rules 2003 came into effect. All the billboards are unauthorised and DCC should ensure people's safety by removing those.
Asked if there is any necessity of such huge billboards, Prof Sirajul Islam Chowdhury, a noted academician, says, "Advertisement is one kind of business, which is harming the city's environment. A billboard should be small in size, no matter where it is posted. Big billboards should be removed and the illegal one be dismantled. People face problems when billboards are hung in the middle of roads. This happens because the law is not enforced."
"There should be a mandatory guideline determining the size and place of a billboard and the technique of its placing," says environmental economist Prof Mozaffar Ahmed. "We're about to lose the aesthetic sense, which is essential to ensure a lovely environment", he adds.
Prof Nazrul Islam says that it goes against the rule to place big billboards on the streets in residential areas. Placing of large billboards only narrows the width of roads.
Islam, also chairman of Centre for Urban studies, says, "Nobody has got the right to post a billboard anywhere he likes. The advertisers can place billboards as big as they can on their own property, not in the middle of public roads."