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Felling trees to make room for billboards in Karachi

EagleEyes

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Oct 3, 2005
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Even a casual drive in Karachi would reveal that during the last few weeks several thousand trees have been callously chopped down along our city streets.
There has been a steady rise in the rate of slaughtering of hapless trees along the city’s centre and roadside. A well-informed citizen says: “The number of trees hacked during the last couple of years must be well over a hundred thousand”.
Old Karachi people fondly remember the wonderful banyan, gulmohar, neem, almond, jamun and palm trees for their shade, beauty and fruit. They had two added functions — reprocessing carbon dioxide into oxygen and helping with the possibility of a little more rain for the city.
About 50 per cent of a tree’s biomass consists of carbon photosynthesised from carbon-dioxide (CO2) present in the atmosphere. A quarter of CO2 is made up of ‘carbon’ and the remaining of ‘oxygen’. Photosynthesis, therefore, releases oxygen three times the trees size.
The US Environment Protection Agency says: “An average person generates about 2.3 tons and a typical passenger vehicle about 5.1 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year”.
‘Environment Canada’, Canada’s national environmental agency, says: “Two mature trees can provide enough oxygen for a family of four”.
Karachi has a population of over 20 million and three million registered vehicles. Some 784 kilometres of the 9,764 kilometres city roads are classified as ‘arterial routes’.
Using the above data and formulas, corrected for our local conditions, the CO2 generated by humans, vehicles, industry and all living beings exceeds 50 million tonnes per annum.
Numbers aside, if Karachiites want to arrest deterioration of their environment, “we must plant more trees and stop chopping down the existing ones”.
Then why the powers that be are in a hurry to kill the remaining trees in Karachi?
Of the many reasons, the single most potent reason for slaughtering trees in Karachi is the ‘outdoor advertising’ and the insatiable greed it generates!
Fully grown trees are axed simply to ensure greater visibility of the copious ‘outdoor advertising hoardings and billboards’.
Simon Sinclair, director of the Pravda advertising agency based in Manchester, United Kingdom, says: “If you want to build a brand, posters are the strongest medium. They can be seen everywhere, they’re impactful, they make you look big. People might miss a TV ad, but if they’re driving in [to a city] on the same arterial routes every day, they won’t miss a poster. And you can do it quite cheaply. You can just take six arterial routes and have a poster on each of them and everyone thinks that they’ve seen the biggest brand around.”
And that’s where the problem lies.
The over two dozen land-owning agencies exercising their much-dreaded authority to allow ‘hoarding and billboards’ include the KMC, KDA, LDA, MDA, the five restructured district corporations, their administrators, nazims, directors, minister for local government, the six cantonment boards, their executive directors, station commanders, the navy, the air force, civil aviation authority and the KPT. The advertising director of the KMC, the agency that owns all major arterial roads in the city, insists that the department had allowed 1,400 billboards only (fewer than the ones nailed over any major artery). Playing the old blame game, the director alleges that the men in uniform and other authorities own the remaining 80 per cent of the hoardings in the city. He denies having ever cut a single tree. Where there are no cantonment boards or federal agencies nearby, he blames towns and the outdoor advertising companies for the act. Officials at the above authorities have also made their millions through this illicit trade, but ultimately thousands of billboards along our main thoroughfares remain the sole transgression of the KMC.
A land owning agency’s annual income from a typical billboard site could range from Rs45,000 to Rs500,000. However, the earnings for the officials controlling outdoor advertising range from Rs3 million to Rs4m and the income for the outdoor advertising company from Rs5 million to Rs10m from the same billboard.
Cunningly the permission is usually granted for one billboard. This permission, for example, for a billboard along Sharea Faisal near Nursery then becomes an excuse for a hundred other billboards. Many officials working with advertising departments of the respective authorities are running front outdoor advertising companies.
Cutting trees and corruption are not the only problems associated with billboards. Billboards have other effects which may have equally adverse or worse consequences.
Psychiatrist Dr Taj Baloch says the ‘outdoor advertising’ promotes visual disorder. Daily overstimulation of our visual senses while commuting to or back from work, school or just plain pleasure trip, leads to various forms of behavioural disarray such as confusion, disorientation, a desensitisation to setting and decreased environmental awareness, distortion of reality, fatigue, anxiety, tenseness and irritability, with apathy and emotional withdrawal in the final stages. This leads to social problems diminishing human productivity, addictions, violence and crime.
Billboards are one of the most rapidly changing elements of Karachi’s urban landscape, aggravating an already bleak sense of permanence and belonging of its residents to the city.
Everyone knows that while driving distraction caused by the use of cellphone could be disastrous. Billboards are also designed to pull your eyes off the road and onto the roadside displays.
Billboards interfere and create confusion with traffic signals, signs and road markings. They obstruct the drivers view and have resulted in death and injury when they fell on people, especially during high winds.
Many billboards deprive people, especially the ones living in apartments in congested neighbourhoods, of their basic right to light and air. Dimness and congestion add to the feelings of gloom and doom and stokes a feeling of a lack of law and order in the minds of criminal promoting crime in an already violent city.
In many parts of the world, authorities have for long cited traffic safety, social and psychological factors as a legitimate basis for limiting or eliminating billboards through strict regulations.
Even if some billboards are to be allowed in certain areas or stretches of pedestrian zones, roads and highways, serious studies need to be taken up by urban planners and psychologists to ensure sanity in our cities.
The writer is a former Administrator of Karachi City.

Felling trees to make room for billboards! - Newspaper - DAWN.COM
 

Multani

SENIOR MEMBER
Sep 2, 2010
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Even a casual drive in Karachi would reveal that during the last few weeks several thousand trees have been callously chopped down along our city streets.
There has been a steady rise in the rate of slaughtering of hapless trees along the city’s centre and roadside. A well-informed citizen says: “The number of trees hacked during the last couple of years must be well over a hundred thousand”.
Old Karachi people fondly remember the wonderful banyan, gulmohar, neem, almond, jamun and palm trees for their shade, beauty and fruit. They had two added functions — reprocessing carbon dioxide into oxygen and helping with the possibility of a little more rain for the city.
About 50 per cent of a tree’s biomass consists of carbon photosynthesised from carbon-dioxide (CO2) present in the atmosphere. A quarter of CO2 is made up of ‘carbon’ and the remaining of ‘oxygen’. Photosynthesis, therefore, releases oxygen three times the trees size.
The US Environment Protection Agency says: “An average person generates about 2.3 tons and a typical passenger vehicle about 5.1 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year”.
‘Environment Canada’, Canada’s national environmental agency, says: “Two mature trees can provide enough oxygen for a family of four”.
Karachi has a population of over 20 million and three million registered vehicles. Some 784 kilometres of the 9,764 kilometres city roads are classified as ‘arterial routes’.
Using the above data and formulas, corrected for our local conditions, the CO2 generated by humans, vehicles, industry and all living beings exceeds 50 million tonnes per annum.
Numbers aside, if Karachiites want to arrest deterioration of their environment, “we must plant more trees and stop chopping down the existing ones”.
Then why the powers that be are in a hurry to kill the remaining trees in Karachi?
Of the many reasons, the single most potent reason for slaughtering trees in Karachi is the ‘outdoor advertising’ and the insatiable greed it generates!
Fully grown trees are axed simply to ensure greater visibility of the copious ‘outdoor advertising hoardings and billboards’.
Simon Sinclair, director of the Pravda advertising agency based in Manchester, United Kingdom, says: “If you want to build a brand, posters are the strongest medium. They can be seen everywhere, they’re impactful, they make you look big. People might miss a TV ad, but if they’re driving in [to a city] on the same arterial routes every day, they won’t miss a poster. And you can do it quite cheaply. You can just take six arterial routes and have a poster on each of them and everyone thinks that they’ve seen the biggest brand around.”
And that’s where the problem lies.
The over two dozen land-owning agencies exercising their much-dreaded authority to allow ‘hoarding and billboards’ include the KMC, KDA, LDA, MDA, the five restructured district corporations, their administrators, nazims, directors, minister for local government, the six cantonment boards, their executive directors, station commanders, the navy, the air force, civil aviation authority and the KPT. The advertising director of the KMC, the agency that owns all major arterial roads in the city, insists that the department had allowed 1,400 billboards only (fewer than the ones nailed over any major artery). Playing the old blame game, the director alleges that the men in uniform and other authorities own the remaining 80 per cent of the hoardings in the city. He denies having ever cut a single tree. Where there are no cantonment boards or federal agencies nearby, he blames towns and the outdoor advertising companies for the act. Officials at the above authorities have also made their millions through this illicit trade, but ultimately thousands of billboards along our main thoroughfares remain the sole transgression of the KMC.
A land owning agency’s annual income from a typical billboard site could range from Rs45,000 to Rs500,000. However, the earnings for the officials controlling outdoor advertising range from Rs3 million to Rs4m and the income for the outdoor advertising company from Rs5 million to Rs10m from the same billboard.
Cunningly the permission is usually granted for one billboard. This permission, for example, for a billboard along Sharea Faisal near Nursery then becomes an excuse for a hundred other billboards. Many officials working with advertising departments of the respective authorities are running front outdoor advertising companies.
Cutting trees and corruption are not the only problems associated with billboards. Billboards have other effects which may have equally adverse or worse consequences.
Psychiatrist Dr Taj Baloch says the ‘outdoor advertising’ promotes visual disorder. Daily overstimulation of our visual senses while commuting to or back from work, school or just plain pleasure trip, leads to various forms of behavioural disarray such as confusion, disorientation, a desensitisation to setting and decreased environmental awareness, distortion of reality, fatigue, anxiety, tenseness and irritability, with apathy and emotional withdrawal in the final stages. This leads to social problems diminishing human productivity, addictions, violence and crime.
Billboards are one of the most rapidly changing elements of Karachi’s urban landscape, aggravating an already bleak sense of permanence and belonging of its residents to the city.
Everyone knows that while driving distraction caused by the use of cellphone could be disastrous. Billboards are also designed to pull your eyes off the road and onto the roadside displays.
Billboards interfere and create confusion with traffic signals, signs and road markings. They obstruct the drivers view and have resulted in death and injury when they fell on people, especially during high winds.
Many billboards deprive people, especially the ones living in apartments in congested neighbourhoods, of their basic right to light and air. Dimness and congestion add to the feelings of gloom and doom and stokes a feeling of a lack of law and order in the minds of criminal promoting crime in an already violent city.
In many parts of the world, authorities have for long cited traffic safety, social and psychological factors as a legitimate basis for limiting or eliminating billboards through strict regulations.
Even if some billboards are to be allowed in certain areas or stretches of pedestrian zones, roads and highways, serious studies need to be taken up by urban planners and psychologists to ensure sanity in our cities.
The writer is a former Administrator of Karachi City.

Felling trees to make room for billboards! - Newspaper - DAWN.COM

heart wrenching! Allah Allah
 

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