Not ‘Smart’ for ‘Smart City’! Hoardings-Banners Defying Ban on Flex-Plastic

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Not ‘Smart’ for ‘Smart City’! Hoardings-Banners Defying Ban on Flex-Plastic

Mangaluru: Seems like a “We don’t practice what we preach” kind of story. The March 11, 2016 Special Gazette Notification issued by the Department of Environment and Forest before the Karnataka High Court, which had banned the manufacture, storage and use of bags, banners, buntings, flex, flags, plates, cups, spoons, cling films, dining table sheets, Thermo col, all made of plastic, irrespective of thickness- has not been followed strictly. The move was aimed at preventing the discarding of these plastic items in open fields, water bodies etc., and the consequent choking of the environment. The Notification has authorised the heads, health officers and engineers of urban local bodies, deputy commissioners of districts, assistant commissioners of revenue sub-divisions, environmental engineers and officers of KSPCB, tahsildars, officers of the Commercial Taxes Department and Food and Civil Supplies Department to initiate legal action over non-compliance with the order. Also read my earlier article on the hoarding issue published on this website on February 15, 2107 (Illegal Hoardings a Menace to City’s Beauty and Safety Threat to Motorists)

But seems like no one is adhering to these rules, even the elected representatives of Mangaluru City Corporation have been defying the law. Apart from dozens of banners and hoardings that are seen all over the city, among them are flex hoardings/banners congratulating newly elected mayor Kavitha Sanil and Deputy Mayor Rajaneesh. How is this possible? It looks like MCC officials, members of temple management committees, Yakshagana programmes, religious events in the central business district area, plus private businesses-Companies, Summer Camp ads, admission to schools, mobile companies etc are mocking the “smartness” of the city. This is not “Smart” for an upcoming “Smart City”-Mangaluru!

Seems like there is a hoarding/billboard/banner epidemic in Mangaluru! At every nook and corner of the city, you will see illegal hoardings or banners advertising about school admissions, opening of a showroom or shifting of a supermarket, concert or beach party announcements, conventions or public gathering announcements etc etc- and the funny part is that none of these have permission from the Mangaluru City Corporation to put them up. Then why is MCC not doing anything about this illegal practice, which is losing revenue due to these free advertising?

With a Circus having shows in the outskirts of the City has dozens of flex hoardings-banners all over the city, and even pasted posters on most of the walls in the city- this is not what you call “Swachh Bharath’ or for that matter “Swachh Mangaluru”. How hard is for MCC to take action against such people when they know who did it- the posters and banners are the proof. Apart from this, even the Mayor and Deputy Mayor themselves are not keen to get flex hoardings, congratulating them, removed – these illegal hoardings are still there all over the City.

Speaking to Team Mangalorean, Activist Gerald Towers said., “The lethargy of the city corporation has resulted in the mushrooming of such flex hoardings and banners in the city. When the hoardings and banners speak of themselves who put them the corporation could easily fine them. But there is no will. As there is no fear of fine or any legal action people have continued to deface public places. The best way to identify and punish those who put hoardings, hang banners or paste posters is by installing CCTV cameras at prime locations. But no one wants to take the initiative, seems like there is also a plastic mafia behind it. MCC officials are quick in evicting street vendors but why not bring down the illegal flex hoardings and banners”.

Yet another responsible citizen of Mangaluru says, “MCC should keep the drive continuous against banned flexes. On the other hand, though the government has also banned plastic bags, plastic plates, plastic cups, plastic spoons, cling film and plastic sheets for spreading on the dinning table, irrespective of thickness they were widely being used in the city without the fear of legal action. So what’s the use of these rules/laws if no one follows them, and in the same time, no action is taken by the concerned authorities when people defy these rules”.

In the meantime, with all the pressure from the citizens and activists, Mayor Kavitha has promised to remove all kinds of banned flex hoardings and banners in the city from April 1, 2017. However there will be an exemption to such materials related to religious events as this is the season of religious events, she said. But many have questioned why exempt religious organisations from this rule- ban on flex hoardings or even erecting them illegally should be same for all, irrespective of religious or non-religious. But the other thing is that why Mayor has to wait until April 1 to remove all these hoardings/banners- why not immediately. Last year, when a bunch of banners-hoardings were displayed in the City, the then Mayor Harinath waited till the Mangaluru Dasara was over.

Court orders, MCC advertising laws, strict directives and an exhaustive list of Dos and Don’ts notwithstanding, the menace of rickety and illegal hoardings continues to haunt Mangaloreans. Adding to the concern is the load of unlawful advertising boards, hoardings, flexes and uni-poles that continue to exist, despite MCC’s rules and regulations on outdoor advertising. Probably MCC has no count of illegal hoardings in the city and is doing nothing to stop it. Apart from the display of flex hoardings, MCC has not taken any action against businesses still using plastic bags for packing groceries or other items.

Even after State government issued orders prohibiting the use of many kinds of plastic, including bags to protect the environment, banned plastic material continue to rule the normal life, at least in Dakshina Kannada and Mangaluru. Except for retail chains such as Big Bazaar, More, Spar, and some others, every shop in the region is selling groceries, vegetables, fruit and other products through plastic bags, the menace of which was sought to be ended through the ban. The retail chains, however, offer paper and cloth bags. This information is for the kind attention of the Mayor and other MCC officials to look into this matter and take action against those who still use plastic bags.

Currently, the main areas flaunting’ these hoardings include Hampankatta Circle, Clock Tower Circle, Kankanady Pumpwell, Bunts Hostel Circle, Jyothi Circle, Lady Hill Circle, MG Road, among others. Most of these advertisers are yet to follow the norms. As per court ruling, these hoardings are “hazardous to traffic”. But the problem with MCC is that they will get into action for one day and remove all the illegal hoardings, and thereafter for a month or two months, they keep quiet.

MCC needs to ban these illegal hoardings-areas are to be designated as “no-hoardings zones”. Strict action should be taken against those breaking the laws. All hoardings that compromise road safety are to be removed, especially those at Hampankatta Circle. MCC should launch a drive to remove all illegal billboards immediately, and also warn about fines if hoardings are erected illegally. MCC should remove hoardings from city junctions as they are hazardous to traffic. In any case hoardings/flex banners, whether legal or illegal, should not be allowed to deface natural beauty, the city’s skyline, or cause safety hazards. No-hoarding zones are the need of the hour!

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1 Comment

  1. Well said by the author. Laws should be same for everyone irrespective of religion or non-religion. Thanks for highlighting this issue.

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