Editorial: Will A New Hoardings Policy Help?

Editorial: Will A New Hoardings Policy Help?

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Friday, June 14, 2024, 08:42 PM IST
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The Ghatkopar hoarding that collapsed | X

A month after the chilling tragedy of the collapse of an oversized hoarding in Mumbai’s Ghatkopar killing 17 people and injuring more than 75 in the aftermath of a dust storm, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is reportedly ready with a draft policy for outdoor or out-of-home advertising and the use of hoardings. This brings all outdoor advertisements and hoardings under its purview including on highways and railway land, sets out stringent norms for the height of the digital screens capping it at 40 feet (the hoarding which collapsed was 120x120 feet), proposes minimum distances between different categories of hoardings, lays down use of electricity, and so on. The draft, if approved after the standard process of inviting objections and notifying, will be a mild improvement on the policy that it will replace.

Two issues arise. The first is to do with the implementation of the new policy when it is approved and notified. In the Ghatkopar case too, it was not the absence of a policy that led to the crash that took lives, but the lack of implementation of the existing norms and rules. The civic body did not permit such oversized hoardings and was aware of it, going by the letters it sent out to the owner of the media agency as well as railway authorities and others. The missed step here is that, irrespective of the jurisdiction involved, the BMC refused to take charge and call the shots in public interest.

The second is a more fundamental one about urban design and public safety, and the use or role of hoardings in a city. What use do hoardings serve, how do they help in improving the quality of life for millions who live in cities? Besides their revenue potential for advertising agencies and the promotion of a neon culture that rides on the promotions industry, hoardings — or their absence — do not affect urban life. Even if they should exist, surely city administrations should cap their number and size in the larger public interest — and people’s safety. However, this would mean that the BMC stymies an income source for itself. Public interest, not profits, should decide policies in a city.

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