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May 21, 2024
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‘Mumbai Has 1,025 Hoardings’: BMC’s Tall Claim Amid Scores Of Illegal Billboards, Ignored Checks, Renewals


Even as two more bodies were recovered from the debris of the Ghatkopar billboard collapse on Wednesday, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) claims that there are 1,025 hoardings in the city. The number, which any Mumbaikar may find hard to believe after one look at the hoardings around him, points to the larger problem — scores of illegal billboards that face no action.

The 120×120 sq ft hoarding that collapsed on a petrol pump at Chhedanagar along the Eastern Expressway in Ghatkopar after a duststorm and gusty winds lashed the city on Monday, too, was illegal.

ALSO READ | How Mumbai Wasn’t Prepared Despite 2 Billboard Crashes In Pune, Warning Letter From Ghatkopar Resident

In the wake of the incident, the BMC shared details of the hoardings installed in its 24 wards. While four wards — D (Grant Road), H-West (Bandra) and K-East (Andheri East) and K-West (Andheri West) – top the list, all wards have at least more than 100 hoardings each.

BMC EARNS Rs 200 CRORE A YEAR FROM HOARDINGS

The civic body earns around Rs 200 crore in annual revenue through the licensing of these hoarding, according to Deputy Municipal Commissioner Sanjog Kabare, in one of his earlier interviews. According to sources, the BMC charges around Rs 1.75 lakh per month for a 40×40 square feet structure.

The rules laid down by the civic body for the hoardings are:

  • There should be a minimum distance of 70 metres between two hoardings.
  • Hoardings have to adhere to 40×40 sqft norm.
  • BMC should be given a structural audit every two years.

The permission doesn’t come easy. The licence department, which looks into the ads put up on metal structures, seeks no-objection certificates from various departments. The building and factories department issues permits after consulting other departments such as fire brigade, engineering and estate, among others. The garden department, soil testing and tree authority ensure the flora is not damaged. The agreement is for a period of one year, with a fixed deposit and rental fee.

According to sources, however, the authorities as well as the applicants ignore the renewal process after erecting the hoarding.

IN CASE OF RAILWAY LAND

In the blame game that ensued between the BMC, Railways and Government Railway Police (GRP) after the Ghatkopar incident, the civic body was quick to point out that the hoarding was on a railway land. The railways said it wasn’t their land.

This is another catch for the applicants as the BMC rules do not apply to railway land. That perhaps explains why no action was taken even though the Ghatkopar hoarding, which was 120×120 sq ft, was even allowed to be put up. There are 179 hoardings on railway land in the city, said sources.

ALSO READ | Day After Mumbai Hoarding Collapse, Civic Body Removes 3 Other Billboards From Ghatkopar

Moreover, the BMC had even sent a letter to the GRP and filed a complaint with the police two weeks ago, claiming trees were poisoned to erect the hoarding. The GRP, in a statement, said the process of removal of hoardings began after the BMC sent them a letter last week.

However, despite flouting the size and tree norms, the hoarding still stood there in the middle of a duststorm on Monday.

THE HC RAP

Last year, the Bombay High Court had pulled up the Maharashtra government for its inaction against illegal hoardings and banners. The court had mentioned that the residents of Mumbai wanted hoardings to be removed because they deface the city and create obstacles. The observation came during a hearing on pleas of non-compliance of the court’s 2017 orders to pull down illegal hoardings.

The high court had also asked the BMC to comply with Government Resolution (GR) issued by the state, which stated that a hoarding or banner should have a QR code consisting of the name of the person to whom the permission is granted and the period for which it is given.

ALSO READ | Structural Audit Of All Hoardings In Mumbai After Ghatkopar Billboard Collapse; Rs 5 Lakh For Kin Of Deceased

Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde has now announced a structural audit of all hoardings in Mumbai. Three hoardings erected by the accused in the Ghatkopar case, Bhavesh Bhinde of Ego Media Media Pvt Ltd advertising agency, in the same area have been pulled down. The civic body has even started a crackdown on other illegal hoardings.

While the negligence of the authorities in checking the size, renewals and permissions cost the city at least 14 lives, Mumbaikars hope the action ahead of the monsoon might avert any further tragedy.

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