I wrote an article on the menace of pasting posters on the pillars of flyovers six months back. In my write-up titled ‘Ubiquitous poster menace and flyovers’ published in the Daily Sun on September 19 last year, I depicted the ugly side of the nuisance and shared some ideas of how to get rid of it. The ideas included taking steps to free the flyover pillars and giving them a makeover. I suggested taking initiative to decorate the pillars with paintings either by the authorities concerned or through managing sponsors to raise awareness among people on various issues through attractive abstract designs in bright colours and slogans. I wrote that flyover pillars can be a symbol of beauty and memorial to tradition, which will teach people human and moral education and imbue them with patriotism and can be a canvas for presenting country’s history, culture and tradition.
Six months into the publication of the article, Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) has come up with an initiative to daub the flyover pillars with paintings carrying the message of awareness, giving the city dwellers an opportunity to soothe their eyes with aesthetic beauty. Removing the banners and posters from the pillars of Moghbazar Flyover from Moghbazar intersection to Satrasta, beautiful paintings of our local culture are emerging on the white canvas. Pillars are being painted also with different messages, including ‘Don’t blow the horn, don’t put up posters’, ‘Save the environment by planting trees’, ‘Throw away water once in three days’, ‘Let’s love the country’. DNCC Mayor Md Atiqul Islam officially inaugurated the painting works on April 10.
The menace of poster-pasting is ubiquitous in the megacity of Dhaka. There are posters of all sizes and colours everywhere. Those are used as tools of publicity or advertisements for different groups, individuals and organisations. Posters of political parties and private companies are hanged on walls and flyover pillars. The situation turns worse during any election. The publicity-mongers paste posters violating the Graffiti Writing and Poster Sticking Control Act, 2012 and a High Court directive. According to the law, no writing or poster can be pasted anywhere, except in designated places. If anyone violates the law, he/she can be fined the highest Tk 50,000 or jailed for maximum of 30 days. Besides, the offender can be asked to remove the posters at his/her own cost.
However, the menace has been going on unabated for lack of enforcement of laws by the authorities concerned. Even on February 6 last, the High Court expressed grave concern over the pasting of posters on the walls of structures, including flyovers, in Dhaka. “We feel pain when we see that the walls of the flyovers are plastered with posters even though there is a law against such action. The posters must be removed. Every citizen has a right to open space. Those who are responsible have to clean the spaces,” the court said, asking the authorities concerned of the seven flyovers in Dhaka to remove all the graffiti and posters from their walls in two weeks. The court also directed the authorities to take appropriate legal action against those who are responsible for such activities and form a monitoring committee in this regard. At the same time, the HC bench issued a rule asking the respondents to show causes why their inaction in stopping pasting posters on the walls of flyovers should not be declared illegal. Back on November 2, 2016, the HC asked the two city corporations to remove banners and festoons immediately after these were pasted on various roads, footpaths and road islands of the capital. It directed the two city corporations to continue their activities to remove all unauthorised billboards, posters, banners and archways, and wipe out all graffiti on walls in areas under their jurisdiction.
However, we had not seen any visible initiative from the authorities concerned to this end. The two city corporations of Dhaka used to remove posters from the flyovers at times. However, those surfaced immediately afterwards.
But now the DNCC has taken a commendable move to decorate the flyover pillars with paintings. It will surely help give the city an aesthetic look as these posters are ruining the beauty of the capital city, which actually lacks a good look for various reasons. The DNCC has started with the Moghbazar Flyover. We hope they will cover all the flyovers under their jurisdiction in phases. The initiative will certainly discourage people from pasting posters on the flyover pillars. Now the authorities should ensure that the publicity-mongers can no way deface the flyover pillars again. Steps must be taken so that flyover pillars do not become the canvas of free advertisement again. Action must be taken if anyone tries to hang posters overlapping the paintings. Similarly, the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) can take such initiative to decorate the flyover pillars under its jurisdiction with artwork.
Once done with the flyovers, steps can be taken to free the walls of different public and private buildings from poster menace and give them a facelift. At the same time, social and cultural organisations as well as individuals can also voluntarily come forward in this regard. They can turn the city’s public spaces into their canvas and paint flyover pillars to beautify the city. It is the responsibility of each and every person to ensure the beauty of the city we live in. Different aspects of the Language Movement, Six-point Movement, Mass Upsurge, Liberation War and historic 7th March Speech of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman can be displayed on the flyover pillars and walls of buildings. Those can be used for raising awareness about corruption, child marriage, health, eve-teasing, juvenile gang culture and drug menace.
The writer is a columnist