Growing menace of unauthorized hoardings ignored by civic authorities

State government had introduced new guidelines for billboard industry in 2022, detailing strict regulations on their placement and construction.
File photo of hoarding collapse in Pune
File photo of hoarding collapse in Pune

Pune: Oversized billboards, each weighing over four to five tons, are precariously hanging at intersections and roadsides throughout Pune, in blatant violation of safety regulations. Despite the evident dangers, the municipal corporation has not taken stringent actions to address this issue.

The recent incidents of billboards falling during storms and causing fatalities have not spurred the administration into action, leaving Pune's skyline marred by these massive structures.

While legislators promise to transform Pune into a beautiful city, they seem to conveniently overlook the hazardous issue of billboards. Observers are keen to see if lawmakers will raise the topic of billboard policy during the upcoming monsoon session of the legislature or continue to ignore it.

In April, a massive authorized billboard collapsed during a storm on Nagar Road in Wagholi, miraculously causing no injuries. In May, a similar incident in Ghatkopar, Mumbai, resulted in over 14 fatalities. Shortly thereafter, in Pune's Shewalwadi, another billboard fell, severely injuring a horse in a wedding procession.

Despite these reported incidents, the state government, municipal corporation, district administration, and public representatives have failed to take decisive action. The problem is compounded by the vested interests of administrative and political figures in the lucrative billboard industry.

Billboards occupy key city intersections, roadside buildings, open spaces, and building margins, generating millions in monthly revenue for billboard companies. Pune alone has 2,598 authorized billboards, contributing to an annual turnover of at least ₹450 crore in this business. However, the municipal corporation earns a mere ₹70-75 crore in billboard fees.

Rampant Tree Cutting

Billboard companies are engaging in rampant tree cutting to ensure clear visibility of their advertisements from the road. Trees that obstruct billboard views are illegally pruned or cut down, despite regulations. The municipal tree officers have turned a blind eye to this widespread destruction.

Spotlight on Legislators' Stance

The billboard menace extends beyond Pune, affecting cities throughout the state. As incidents of falling billboards continue, legislators are under pressure to address the issue in the legislature session and urge the government to implement strict measures to ensure citizen safety. There is considerable interest in how Pune city and district legislators will respond to this growing concern.

2022 Guidelines Ignored

The state government introduced new guidelines for the billboard industry in 2022, detailing strict regulations on their placement and construction. These rules prohibit stacking billboards, mandate a minimum gap of three feet between billboards, restrict placement within 25 meters of intersections, and prevent billboards from obstructing air and light or being erected in riverbeds, canals, or lakes.

Despite these guidelines, compliance by billboard companies is lacking, and municipal officials often overlook violations. The guidelines seem to exist only on paper, with little enforcement on the ground.

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