Five days after a devastating incident in Ghatkopar, where a billboard collapse resulted in the tragic loss of 17 lives and injuries to 77 others, the Vasai-Virar Municipal Corporation (VVMC) has taken significant steps to prevent such tragedies in their jurisdiction. They have issued a directive to all hoarding contractors, mandating them to submit detailed structural audit reports within a week.

The urgency of this action stems from the fact that while the VVMC has officially sanctioned 791 hoardings, it is believed that many more have been erected without proper authorization. The Ghatkopar incident has underscored the potential dangers posed by unstable and illegal hoardings, prompting VVMC to take a more stringent approach.

A recent survey by VVMC officials highlighted that numerous hoardings were installed in inappropriate and unsafe locations, including crowded areas and in front of schools. These findings have led to a wave of concern and calls for immediate action. Social worker Uday Singh remarked, “Never before has the Vasai Virar City Municipal Corporation appeared so serious about hoarding.”

Vishakha Motghare, the deputy commissioner of VVMC, affirmed that the corporation had permitted 791 hoardings within its area. She emphasized that structural audits are now compulsory for all these hoardings, and agencies and contractors have been given an eight-day deadline to submit their reports.

The urgency and seriousness of this crackdown are further underscored by the history of accidents related to hoardings in the region. Throughout 2023, several fatal accidents and numerous complaints about oversized banners obstructing drivers’ views have plagued the area. These hoardings, primarily used for advertisements and promotions, have been identified as significant hazards. They not only block signals but also distract drivers, leading to dangerous driving conditions. The traffic police have recently urged the VVMC to remove hoardings that obscure visibility and pose risks to motorists.

In a thorough investigation, it was found that out of approximately 30,000 hoardings in the Vasai-Virar region, only 335 had the proper legal approvals. Many banners were installed without obtaining the necessary No Objection Certificates (NOC) from the VVMC. This widespread non-compliance has been a major contributing factor to the safety issues observed.

The legal process for erecting a banner involves several steps, including securing permission from the VVMC and obtaining an NOC from the traffic department. However, civic body employees noted that when the municipal corporation was established in 2009, there was no dedicated department for hoarding permissions. This oversight has only been addressed in the past two years, with the establishment of a department specifically tasked with managing hoardings. Since then, 335 individuals have been granted legal permissions for their hoardings.

In 2023, the VVMC launched a campaign to dismantle illegal hoardings. This initiative saw considerable success but had to be paused during the rainy season, which made the removal process challenging. Now, with the recent tragedy in Ghatkopar serving as a grim reminder of the potential dangers, the VVMC is resuming and intensifying its efforts to ensure that all hoardings comply with safety regulations.

The VVMC’s recent actions reflect a broader trend of increasing scrutiny and regulation of public spaces to ensure safety. This includes a comprehensive review of all existing hoardings and strict enforcement of legal and safety standards. Contractors and agencies are now under significant pressure to comply with these regulations and submit the required structural audit reports within the specified timeframe.

This rigorous approach aims not only to prevent further accidents but also to create a safer environment for all residents. The VVMC’s initiative is a crucial step towards addressing the long-standing issues related to illegal and unsafe hoardings. It demonstrates a commitment to public safety and the well-being of the community.

As the VVMC continues its crackdown, it is expected that many unauthorized hoardings will be identified and removed. This will likely result in improved visibility for drivers, reduced distractions, and ultimately, safer roads. The success of this initiative will depend on the cooperation of contractors, the diligence of municipal officials, and the continued vigilance of the community.

In conclusion, the tragic incident in Ghatkopar has served as a wake-up call for the VVMC and the broader Vasai-Virar region. The stringent measures now being implemented are a necessary response to prevent such tragedies in the future. By enforcing strict regulations and conducting thorough audits, the VVMC aims to ensure that all hoardings are safe and compliant with legal standards. This proactive approach is essential for safeguarding the lives of residents and maintaining the integrity of public spaces.