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Bangladesh: Ugly and Deadly Billboards in Dhaka

Almost 13 million people reside in Dhaka, the Capital of Bangladesh. That is about 28000 people within a square kilometer. Air pollution, water pollution, and massive traffic jams are the usual challenges for them. According to the Environmental Performance Index 2012, conducted by American universities Yale and Columbia, Dhaka is the 31st most polluted city out of 132 cities across the world. There are approximately 250 micrograms of dust in the air of Dhaka city which is five times the average. Besides this pollution, Dhaka's skylines are covered with commercial billboards, which block view of the sky. You will see large billboards of various companies everywhere.

Crippling the visual beauty of one of the most populated cities in the world, these billboards with ads pop up everywhere in the city! Image from Flickr by Ashiful Haque. CC BY.

Inside Dhaka city, the number of large billboards has increased to more than 2500. But only 300 of them have permission [bn] from (Dhaka's) City Corporation. They are placed besides roads, on the front or roof top of buildings and in open spaces. Rules stipulate that the billboards should not be bigger than 600 square feet, which is also not followed. These oversized billboards decrease the beauty of the city and also hinder air flow.

The advertisement -lust of big conglomerates is not only covering the faces of the city and its dwellers, but is also killing people. Recently, two people died in Dhaka's Gulshan area when a billboard was uprooted by a storm. A few pedestrians were also injured in the incident. This type of incident is not rare, other people have died as well. One statistics shows [bn] that 15 people had been killed in Dhaka from billboard related accidents.

Such large billboards are ubiquitous in Dhaka. Image by Sanaul Ahmed. Used with permission.

Sujon was a witness to the billboard accident in Gulshan. He comments [bn] on a blogpost:

গুলশান-১ এ যে দিন বিলবোর্ড ভেঙ্গে পরে …..আমি তার ৫০ গজের মধ্যে ছিলাম……..বড় বাঁচা বেঁচে গেছি সেইদিন….

The day when the billboard at Gulshan 1 fell down.. I was within 50 meters… (my)  escape was a miracle..

Kowshik writes about this tragic incident:

ঢাকার রাস্তায় এখন সামরিক মহড়ার মত মরণঘাতী বিলবোর্ড তাক করা থাকে। টহল পুলিশ বা আর্মির ট্যাংক, বন্দুকের ট্রিগারের পেছনে একজন সুস্থ মস্তিস্কের মানব ক্রিয়াশীল থাকে, ফলে হুট করে গুলি বের হবার সম্ভাবনা নাই। কিন্তু প্রতিটি বড় বড় মোড়ে কয়েকশ টন ওজনের লোহালক্কর সমেত বিশাল ভারী বিলবোর্ডগুলো যেভাবে নড়বড়ে ভাবে দন্ডায়মান থাকে- সেগুলোর মানুষ মারতে কারো আদেশের অপেক্ষা করতে হয় না। সামান্য মৌসুমী বায়ুতেই আছড়ে পড়ে চলমান যানবাহন আর পথচারীর উপরে।

In Dhaka's street you will find deadly billboards standing like barrels from an army exercise. Police armored vehicles, army tanks or the trigger of a gun are controlled by sane people. So the likelihood of killing people with them is less. However, you will find large billboards weighing tonnes of metal standing at every crossroad, who need no order to kill people. Strong winds can cause them to collapse on pedestrians and vehicles.

Kowshik has expressed [bn] concerns that if these billboards are not removed there will be more deaths.

A common scene – billboards on buildings in Dhaka. Image from Flickr by Jane Rawson. CC BY-NC-ND

Recently a Bangladesh Highcourt ordered removal of illegal billboards from the city. But the authorities have yet to implement the order on a large scale. The Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) has started preparing policies for billboards.

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