AFTER Four persons were killed and 11 injured as a hoarding collapsed on a busy road last week, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) both seem to be taking their own time when it comes to formulating strategies to avoid such incidents in future.
While the PCMC, headed by Shravan Hardikar, has sent out some positive signals — indicating that it was ready to take concrete steps to avoid such situations — the Saurabh Rao-led PMC does not seem to have made much progress. Last week’s accident happened in its area. Three months ago, two persons had died when a hoarding collapsed in PCMC area.
Speaking about the new Outdoor Advertising Policy of the PCMC, Hardikar said: “The policy has been drafted and it will soon be placed before the general body meeting.”
Asked if the policy mentions cast iron structures, Hardikar said: “Since iron structures are strong, their fall could cause a tragedy. We will discuss if other material, like fibre, could be used so that if such hoardings crash because of strong winds, they do not cause a big tragedy.”
He added that there is a need to devise a better strategy to deal with such situations. “It is indeed necessary to explore different ways to find out how we can avoid such a situation. There is a pressing need to strongly consider the safety aspect of people travelling on roads when civic bodies put up cast iron structures for hoardings,” he said.
While Rao did not respond to repeated calls, Vijay Dahibhate, who heads the PMC SkySign department, said he had a discussion about hoardings and related matters with the officials. “We have not discussed replacing iron structures with other material. But it might be discussed in our next meetings. We are still in the process of holding discussions. All suggestions and ideas will be considered,” he said.
Stating that the PCMC does not give permission without taking into account structural stability of advertising hoardings, Hardikar said Pimpri-Chinchwad was swamped with hoardings. “There is an overdose of hoardings and flex banners in Pimpri-Chinchwad. It should not be like this. … they create a bad impression of a growing city,” he said.
PCMC officials said there was no policy regarding hoardings that were in place for all these years. “The PCMC had to rely on the state’s policy. After the state government directed it to frame its own policy, the PCMC is now ready,” an official said. As a result, no cases had been filed against violators. “We have just confiscated hoardings and banners put up illegally. In the past few months, nearly 300 illegal hoardings and banners have been seized. There are over a thousand hoardings across the town,” the official said.
Hardikar said according to the new policy, if there is violation in terms of size or space, a fine will be imposed. “If we have given three feet space for putting up a flex banner and two feet extra space has been used, the violator would be asked to pay a fine,” he said. The PCMC officials said they have formed several squads to track down illegal hoardings across the city.
Activist Vijay Kumbhar said the civic bodies need to think if the city needed hoardings that are a major distraction for commuters. “It is said that when we take our eyes off roads, accidents take place. Pune has thousands of hoardings that distract commuters. Are they the cause of the accidents in Pune?” he asked.
He added that the PMC was supposed to get a free software from the Nagpur Municipal Corporation. “The software helps to know when a particular hoarding had been installed and when the deadline for removal is….but it seems that PMC is yet to procure the software,” he said. “To avoid tragedies, it is important that hoardings are installed away from crowded areas. Even if stability of the structured is ensured, over a period of time, the structure becomes weak… areas around those should be fenced so that, even if a hoarding falls, people are not injured,” he said.