12 May 2024  |   06:54am IST

MENACE OF ILLEGAL HOARDINGS

After the High Court of Bombay at Goa took suo motu cognisance of different illegal hoardings erected by the roadside at various places across the State due to the hindrance these were causing to the traffic and often accidents, the authorities woke up and took measures to remove them and avoid visual clutter. VITHALDAS HEGDE and MARCOS GONSALVES delve into the menace of illegal hoardings and their impact on commuters’ safety due to distraction
MENACE OF ILLEGAL HOARDINGS

In June 2007, the High Court admitted suo motu petition regarding illegal hoardings and till date 51 hearings have been held. The Corporation of the City of Panaji (CCP), 13 municipal councils and all 191 village panchayats besides, PWD, National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), Department of Transport have been made respondents in the case.

Senior Advocate S D Lotlikar, who has been appointed amicus curie had told the court that despite taking several measures and orders passed by the Court, the ghost of illegal hoardings continues to haunt the cities, national highways and other important places of public interest. He stated that even after illegal hoardings were removed they were again put up with scant respect to the authorities.

In December last year, the High Court directed 20 owners of the land wherein hoardings were existing in No Development Zone (NDZ) as well as the companies using them, to immediately stop displaying the advertisements by covering them with cloth.

The Court had also directed the Electricity department to disconnect the electricity connections of these 20 hoardings. The proliferation of these authorised and objectionable hoardings was creating public nuisance affecting the rights of citizens as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. 

Commuters and citizens had criticised the government for the delay in finalising the policy, which they felt was delayed due to the code of conduct in force for the Lok Sabha elections.

The proliferation of illegal roadside hoardings and posters in major cities and highways across the state is a pressing issue. Not only do these unauthorised structures fail to generate revenue for the panchayats or municipalities, but they also pose significant safety hazards. Positioned in precarious locations, these hoardings serve as distractions to drivers, increasing the risk of accidents on the roads.

In the past the Goa bench of the Bombay High Court has previously issued a directive to the Directorate of Panchayats, seeking an explanation regarding banned hoardings by tobacco manufacturing company along both sides of the Mandovi River.

The CCP assured the bench that steps would be taken to remove the illegal hoardings within its jurisdiction. 

The Mapusa Municipal Council was instructed to submit an action taken report regarding the 44 illegal hoardings that were previously erected in the Mapusa municipal area. This indicated that the issue of illegal hoardings persists in many places.

The persistence of illegal hoardings raises the question of how they continue to stand despite regulations. Hoardings are not supposed to be erected within a jurisdiction without the permission of the relevant municipal councils or village panchayats. However, the fact that they are still being erected suggests a failure in enforcement or regulatory oversight.

It has been noted that whenever any prominent leaders arrives in the State, it is the government that is engaged in putting up posters and hoardings to welcome them. And hence the issue pertaining to permission needed to be taken is being sidelined. There have been instances in Panjim or Margao, when hoardings and posters have been put up without the formal permission of the CCP.

Last year the government constituted a 14-member special committee under the chairmanship of Secretary (Revenue), to formulate a policy for regulation and determination of issuance of permission and monitoring of hoardings.

Accordingly, the special committee formulated the Goa State Outdoor Advertisement Policy, 2023. The Policy aims to establish proper monitoring mechanism and penalise the violators, which are contrary to provisions of the Policy. The Policy also aims at preparation of online Hoarding Software which will allocate unique identification number to all the hoardings which will indicate ward, location, road, zone, latitude-longitude, date of expiry of permission/renewal and also shall depict the soft image of the hoarding displayed. 

The empanelled Agency shall have to post all the newly changed hoardings picture in soft copy format in this software. There will be facility of online application, approval and payment of charge through this software.

Since outdoor advertisements fetch revenue to the State, and that all hoardings are not hazardous, and do not pose potential dangers to drivers, the outdoor advertising policy has given careful and high consideration to issues of road safety, and to ensure that there are no too much “visual clutter” at/or near intersections and junctions which has potentials to interfere with drivers visual search strategies, leading to accidents.

The policy aims at establishing a proper revenue sharing model between the centralised agency and the concerned local bodies. It also aims at identification and creation of various appropriate advertising zones where hoardings can be permitted and identification of areas/zones where no hoardings can be allowed. The Policy further aims to bring within its ambit the outdoor advertising devices located in the rivers and seas within nautical miles situated within its jurisdiction to cover and bring the advertising done by off-shore casinos and ships and vessels.

South Goa Additional Collector, Srinet Kothwale said, “The district authority is waiting for the government notification on the draft policy that has been prepared by the government. In the past district authority had issued orders for the removal of the illegal hoardings erecting on the roadside, and necessary directions were issued to the council and panchayat bodies, He further informed that the issue is being handled at the government level and policy has been drafted.

Admitting that these hoardings are being erected illegally and causing major problems to the commuters, Kothwale said that they now act only after the notification is being issued by the government.

It is pertinent to note that in the past upon the directions of the District Magistrate, the Margao Municipal Council had removed several roadside hoardings; however, as the days passed, most of them again sprouted.

“Roadside hoardings have become major problems to the commuters and hence the policy drafted by the government needs to come in force at the earliest, said Savio Rodrigues, a resident of Verna. 

He stated there are several illegal hoardings erecting in Verna jurisdiction but no action is taken to remove them. 

All Goa Hoarding Owners Association president Gurudas Natekar said, “After the High Court admitting suo motu writ petition, nearly 3,000 hoardings mostly erected along the highway and roadside were removed by the authorities while, about 450 hoardings were retained after the Court ordered that hoardings put up prior to year 2010 be not pulled down.”

Natekar said now anybody desiring to erect hoardings will have to follow strictly follow the new rules. The government is also trying to introduce single window clearance system.

PWD Executive Engineer, Division VII Jude Carvalho said, “PWD removed all hoardings which were erected in the PWD land and falling in the right of way. We are not granting any permission to put up hoardings in the land acquired by PWD and we are rejecting applications.”

Penha De Franca sarpanch Sapnil Chodankar said that as many as 21 hoardings were demolished as per the High Court order. “One of the tobacco manufacturing company has now challenged the removal of hoardings erected along the Mandovi river and the matter is subjudice.


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