The picture of a billboard dislodged from the top of a building in Dhaka that was published in our paper yesterday must have shocked many. Last April, another such ramshackle structure collapsed on the vehicle of an MP, a police van, three minibuses and several rickshaws. Though there had been no fatalities, one cannot always be lucky. On March 5, 2010, one such giant hoarding atop a shopping mall had collapsed and killed two.
There is, however, no mystery as to why these horrid incidents kept repeating. Most of these billboards are shoddily built, caring little for its ability to withstand gale force or the seasonal storm. The situation turns acute during the monsoon. This is especially true for uni-pole billboards, which, supported by a single pillar, give in and crash on unsuspecting passersby. To make matters even worse, reportedly between 2,000 of 3,000 billboards in Dhaka North and South City Corporations have been erected without prior approval of the designated authorities. The Corporations, too, are undermanned; they have the workforce to dismantle only three illegal hoardings a day. As a result, wherever DNCC and DSCC officials bring down a billboard, unscrupulous businessman in connivance with the property owners reinstate the structure within a few days.
To begin with, a clear set of rules must be prescribed for the erection of billboard and their compliance ensured. The government also needs to review its guideline on advertisements. Town planners and other experts in the relevant field can be consulted.
The DNCC and DSCC should be logistically equipped in order to remove all poorly built billboards from the capital. Those responsible for these life threatening structures must be penalised.