The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation’s anti-encroachment officers have started pulling down billboards, hoardings, banners and streamers from private properties on Supreme Court orders, after two people were injured when they fell during the rainstorm last week.
KMC Director Minhaj-ul-Haq is leading the operation that started August 10.
“The advertisements include 200-feet wide and 150-feet high ones which fall in the category of dangerous advertisements,” Haq said. “We have removed them from private sites on MA Jinnah Road, Teen Talwar, Metropole, Regal Chowk, Abdullah Haroon Road, Tariq Road and Bahadurabad.”
Private sites, such as apartment blocks, often rent out their wall space to big advertisers for hefty sums. The only problem is that sometimes the billboard covers windows and blocks ventilation for the building’s residents. The advertiser gets each apartment to quietly sign a waiver.
In 2014, there were over 3,000 billboards in Karachi with 140 on the strip from Hotel Metropole to Gora Qabristan on Shahrah-e-Faisal that earned the cantonment at least 250 million rupees a year. It is a lucrative business.
But ever since the Supreme Court’s crackdown in 2015, advertisers got creative and started using walls. Billboard sites are auctioned by KMC and cantonments for yearly contracts. Advertisers erect billboards and then marketing companies rent them.
The current operation is targeting advertising that breaks the bylaws. The standard sizes are: 10x20ft, 15x45ft, 60x20ft. But advertisers, the cantonments and city government have been creative by clubbing together two billboards to invent the massive 125x40ft one or the billboard wall.
On the third day of the sweep, an advertisement wall near Hyperstar in Clifton falling in the jurisdiction of South DMC was torn down. Two others were taken down earlier.
There are still four dangerous giant billboards, two at Abdullah Haroon Road, one near National Stadium at Shazz Super Market and one at Mashrique Shopping Center, that need to be tackled.
“Except shop boards, we are going to remove every single advertisement from private property,” Haq added. “We have removed around 300 advertisements from private sites during three days.”
Two officers of DMC South (Advertisement department) Wazir Ali and Siddique Swati suspended after a billboard near Metropole Hotel fell on August 6 and injured two people. They got bail from a South District & Sessions judge.
Wazir Ali, Director South DMC Advertisement, confirmed to SAMAA Digital that he was on bail and in Khairpur. According to him, the DMC South Advertisement Department had given permission for the wall pasting to a real estate agent called Ashraf Motiwalla on a private site located at Metropole.
“The wall pasting permission of 30×40 feet was given to Ashraf Motiwalla for 2018-19 against a government challan of Rs750,000,” he said. The permission ended by 2019 and his hoardings were laid on the roof of the building and it was these sheets which fell on the road from the wind that day.