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Illegal billboards turn into death traps in Sylhet

46Oversized and illegal billboards erected across the Sylhet city by government and private organisations have become a cause for concern for the city dwellers, posing as potential death-traps during storms.
The haphazard billboards along with their steel support structures often fell on pedestrians or vehicles during strong wind or storm, causing untold damage, injuries and even death. Deaths from billboard collapse during the monsoon season have become a common phenomenon in recent years, but as yet no effective measures have been taken by the authorities to prevent the accidents
Sources at Sylhet City Corporation (SCC) said prior permission is a must for corporations looking to erect billboards. Besides, it is also mandatory to take the approval of a structural design, made by a member of the Institute of Engineers Bangladesh (IEB), from the city corporations.
But in most of the cases, companies or individuals do not abide by the city corporations’ rules during installation of billboards, putting people’s lives and property at risk.
Many billboards are erected illegally using political influence. That’s why often both the city corporations as well as the law enforcing agencies are helpless to stop it, high officials of the city corporations in Sylhet alleged.
Sylhet city is littered with several thousands illegal billboards depriving the city corporations of revenues, the officials of the SCC added.
If the SCC make billboard owners or lessees pledge-bound to implementing the existing policy, it will also increase the beauty of the city besides reduce the risks, he observed.
If the city is hit by 100 km/h strong wind, there is strong possibility of massive casualties due to collapse of those mega billboards, he added.
Chief Waste Management Officer of SCC, admitted they can’t properly monitor the billboard installation process due to lack of adequate manpower.
“When we give permission, we take an undertaking from the lessees or billboard owners that they will be liable for any kind of incident or damage due to any kind of accident,”
He said they have no plans as yet to turn all billboards into digital ones due to some difficulties, the chief waste management officer said.
Chief executive officer of SCC, said “We should take a crash programme in this regard but it is not possible because of insufficient manpower. We should do many things but we can’t execute those for practical reasons.”
Replying to a question, he, however, admitted that some influential people are involved in setting up illegal billboards. “The SCC cannot demolish those due to various reasons,” he said.