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Hoardings clutter Kolkata’s heritage zone skyline

Mayor promises to remove billboards from Esplanade-Dalhousie area

Subhajoy Roy | Published 17.08.22, 05:54 AM
Temporary hoardings outside the Metropolitan Building on SN Banerjee Road on Tuesday.

Temporary hoardings outside the Metropolitan Building on SN Banerjee Road on Tuesday.

Pictures by Bishwarup Dutta

Scores of temporary hoardings dot the Esplanade-Dalhousie area in the central business district where the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) had promised not to allow any billboards after removing many of them about a decade ago in an effort to beautify the city.

The KMC recently pulled down hoardings from Chowringhee Mansion, at the intersection of Jawaharlal Nehru Road and Park Street, which is listed as a Grade I heritage structure. 

Many Kolkatans are now questioning why the KMC is not removing hoardings all over the Esplanade-Dalhousie area, where there are a number of heritage structures. The area has multiple buildings that are architecturally significant and aesthetically pleasing. Some are heritage structures, too. 

Temporary hoardings outside the Currency Building in BBD Bag on Tuesday.

Temporary hoardings outside the Currency Building in BBD Bag on Tuesday.

A tour of some of the areas presented an ugly picture of half-broken, torn and temporary hoardings put up randomly along the roads. Between the KC Das crossing in Esplanade and Oberoi Grand, there are multiple such hoardings.

They included a hoarding related to Ratha Yatra, one about a programme organised as a tribute to the departed singer KK, political hoardings on the July 21 rally of the Trinamul Congress and a billboard displaying an advertisement on a real estate project.

A couple of hoardings were also hanging outside the southwest corner of Tipu Sultan mosque in Esplanade and in front of the KC Das building. 

A hoarding on a handicraft fair organised in Salt Lake last month by the state government was tied to the iron fencing along the footpath in front of Currency Building in Dalhousie. Another hoarding announcing a dog sterilisation project by the KMC was tied to a roadside pole on Old Court House Street. They hang with ropes tied to poles, trees or something jutting out of a building.

In some places, a wooden frame has been erected on the footpath and tied to the railings with a banner attached to its front. 

Temporary billboards in the BBD Bag area on Tuesday

Temporary billboards in the BBD Bag area on Tuesday

“The KMC has to take a holistic approach if it wants to make the city visually appealing. These temporary hoardings, as well as political hoardings, should be removed,” said Abin Chaudhuri, an architect who has designed many public places in the city.

“The KMC has to be vigilant and impose heavy fines on those who put up hoardings in these places. The government has the power to do so. If they do it once, people will be wary and stop putting up hoardings,” Chaudhuri said. 

Mayor Firhad Hakim told The Telegraph on Tuesday night: “We will remove the hoardings, including the ones for the July 21 rally. We are also introducing a rule by which we will take penal action against such violations. If those who put up do not remove the hoardings, we will remove them and recover the cost from those who put them up.”

A senior official of the KMC’s advertisement department said they would first remove the hoardings blocking the view of heritage buildings.

“Clearing hoardings from the facade of heritage buildings is our immediate target. We have prepared a draft policy. Once it is approved by the state government, we will start removing the temporary hoardings from the Esplanade-BBD Bag area,” he said. 

Temporary billboards at the KC Das crossing in Esplanade on Tuesday

Temporary billboards at the KC Das crossing in Esplanade on Tuesday

“It may take another three months for us to receive the approval of the state government so that we can implement the draft policy.”   

A resident of Chandni Chowk in central Kolkata said: “The entire place looks so ugly. It could have been transformed into a visually appealing street.”

The KMC’s draft advertisement policy, 2022, mentions that no advertisements shall be allowed “in front of/inside the compound of/on the walls of any, (a) buildings of archaeological, architectural, aesthetical, historical or heritage importance (including 25 metre periphery of the site); (b) places of worship or religious significance (including 25 metre periphery of the site)”, among others. 

The KMC had pulled down several hoardings in Esplanade in 2011. The draft advertisement policy also states that no advertisements will be allowed on the stretch of Jawarharlal Nehru Road, between Statesman House and the Park Street flyover.

 The entire Dalhousie area has been listed as a no-advertisement zone in the draft policy.

Last updated on 17.08.22, 05:54 AM
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