The plastic advertisement banners that were put up along footpaths ahead of Durga Puja were removed from many streets on Thursday, pleasantly surprising many who said they could not remember another year when the banners were removed so promptly after the festival.
Owners of two outdoor advertising agencies said all banners would be removed by the end of the week. One of them said since the contract with the companies whose products were advertised was to display the banners till Dashami, they were taking them down.
Owing to restrictions on the movement of goods vehicles on the days following Durga Puja in the past three or four years, the banners could not be removed so fast, he said.
The banners are taken down from the bamboo scaffolding and carried away in goods vehicles. There is no count of the number of such banners made only for Puja. Since the agencies do not have to pay any tax to Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC), the civic body has no record of how many banners are put up.
The agencies pay a sum to the Durga Puja committees near whose pandal the banners are erected. The owner of one outdoor agency said they alone had printed and put up over 10,000 banners this Puja. The Telegraph had reported on September 29 that the banners made of plastic would also make a huge volume of waste that would possibly end up in the Dhapa waste disposal ground.
Being made of plastic, they would take years to decompose, said an official of the West Bengal Pollution Control Board. Besides, the banners also make the city look cluttered and ugly. They block sunlight and air from many homes. They hide shops and, sometimes, pose a risk to people’s safety.
A number of banners together with the bamboo scaffolding collapsed on Durgapur bridge on Navami, blocking traffic. It could have been a serious accident if the heavy structure fell on a pedestrian or a vehicle.
“I was pleasantly surprised to see many banners taken down on Thursday itself, just a day after Puja ended. They should not have been there in the first place but it is good that they are being removed so fast,” said Bonani Kakkar, founder of PUBLIC, an NGO that works for environmental causes.
An officer of Kolkata police’s traffic department said that the removal of the banners on the day after Dashami was “very uncommon, if not unprecedented”.
Kakkar and many others had raised concerns over the disposal of the plastic banners.
“We have spoken with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) about guidelines on the disposal of the banners, but there is none,” said an official of the WBPCB.
“The Plastic Waste Management Rules have made it mandatory that such banners should be at least 100 mircons thick.” Ratul Biswas, director of Arun Sign, an outdoor advertising agency, said about 50 per cent of the removed banners would be taken by manufacturers of backpacks from rural areas and for making sheets used to protect temporary houses from rain and heat.