Capital Dhaka has been losing its beauty to a soaring number of posters, banners and graffiti hanging here and there – from trees to street light pillars to buildings and walls – as tools of publicity or advertisements for different groups, individuals and institutions.
The visual pollution also causes mental disturbances to city dwellers and damages their property. For example, putting up posters on trees hurt nature lovers and writing on newly-painted walls their owners.
Although the government enacted a law, Graffiti Writing and Poster Sticking Control Act, in 2012 to prevent such activities, the act has been observed more in the breach than in the observance.
"Controlling the pasting of posters and writing on walls is imperative to protect the health and beauty of the city," said Adil Muhammad Khan, executive director of the Institute for Planning and Development.
"Politicians and public representatives themselves break the rules; then how will citizens feel inspired to comply with the law," he posed the question to The Business Standard. "We should now be aware of visual pollution, simultaneously with environmental pollution."
Mentioning that no country, except Bangladesh and its neighbours, had such a culture, the city planner called for a social movement against such a trend.
The two city corporations – Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) and Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) – which are the authorities to implement the law said they were conducting drives on a regular basis, but failed to find those involved in pasting posters, hanging billboards and banners.
"The offenders cannot be brought to book as they do it in a clandestine manner. We have two magistrates for 75 wards to see to that," said Farid Ahmad, DSCC chief executive officer.
"We are now moving toward setting up digital billboards [to facilitate legal advertising]," he told TBS.
Chief Executive Officer of DNCC Selim Reza said the corporation has adopted a hardline against any hanging of illegal posters and banners.
DNCC officials said the corporation has established billboards at 52 of the busiest places in the city. But a visit to several of those places revealed the presence of advertisements.
On the other hand, all roadside structures in Uttara, Tejgaon, Magbazar, Paltan, Gulistan, and Farmgate areas were found inundated with posters. Even the newly-erected metro rail pillars were seen covered in multiple layers of posters.
Banners were the most common in alleys. Besides, very few roadside walls were seen free of graffiti.
"The walls of houses cannot keep clear even for a single day after painting is done on them. The posters come overnight. We fail to prevent such acts since the poster-makers are influential," said Samiul Haque, a resident of Motijheel.
Banglamotor resident Tasmima Islam said posters and banners not only damaged the walls and the environment but also caused accidents.
"Besides, many posters show offensive pictures and writings that are uncomfortable to look at," she added and called on the authorities to take stern action against those involved.
What the law says
According to Section-4 of the Graffiti Writing and Poster Sticking Control Act, no writing or poster can be put up anywhere, except designated places. If anyone does so, the authorities can fine him or her up to Tk10,000 or a 30-day imprisonment.
Although the two city corporations occasionally remove posters and banners on their own, they do not take any legal action against the perpetrators of such acts. ***