A new draft advertisement policy prepared by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) has reduced the minimum distance required between two hoardings from 16ft, as is required now, to 8.2ft, raising apprehensions that it may lead to more cluttering of the cityscape.
The reduction in the gap between two successive hoardings belies the claim of the draft policy that has “to discourage visual clutter caused by advertisement hoardings or displays” as one of its objectives.
Debashis Kumar, mayoral council member in charge of the KMC’s advertising department, told The Telegraph that the gap has been reduced based on learning from past experience.
“Commercially lucrative places like Park Street have two hoardings at a distance of less than 16ft, though the previous policy said that 16ft gap had to be maintained. We thought that instead of allowing illegal hoardings to come up, we should allow legal hoardings to be created,” said Kumar, who was a member of the committee that framed the new draft policy.
When asked if allowing two hoardings within little distance of each other would clutter the city, Kumar said: “This is a draft policy that can be tweaked. If anyone has any objection, they can write to us. We will consider the objection and changes will be made if required.”
The last time an advertisement policy was framed for Kolkata was in 2009. The policy had mentioned that the minimum distance of 16ft had to be maintained between two hoardings before permission was given for a new hoarding.
The draft of the Advertisement Policy Regulations 2022, which has been published in the Kolkata Gazette, says: “If a new hoarding is proposed near an existing hoarding then minimum distance between the two hoardings on the same side of the road/alignment shall not be less than 2.5 metres (8.2ft).”
The Policy Guidelines on Display of Advertisements 2009 said: “if a new hoarding is proposed near an existing hoarding, then minimum distance between the two hoardings shall be 16 feet.”
The change in the minimum distance between two hoardings means that the KMC will have the right to allow hoardings very close to each other.
The draft also says that the standard size of hoardings on streets, footpaths or the ground should be 20ftX10ft.
A professor of urban design at an institute in New Delhi who did not want to be named said that it seemed that the KMC wanted new hoardings to come between two existing hoardings.
“The current mandated gap is 16ft. They want to reduce it to 8.2ft, which is almost half. So, they may want to have three hoardings on a stretch that had two hoardings before. This will clutter up a road or a street,” said the professor.
Urban designer Anjan Mitra said that he was more concerned about whether the policy would block light and air to houses behind the hoardings.
“We have gigantic hoardings that almost cover an entire building’s façade blocking air and light from going into the houses. This has to stop,” he said.
Mitra said that hoardings add variety to urban aesthetics and they should be designed in a way so that the city looks aesthetic and not ugly.
In the draft policy, some places have been designated as no-advertisement zones. These included the BBD Bag area, East Kolkata Wetlands, Rabindra Sarobar and Subhas Sarobar.
No advertisements can be put up in areas designated as ‘green zones’. These include areas surrounding Kolkata airport and Salt Lake stadium.