LAHORE - At the time when the world is fast moving towards sustainable and eco-friendly cities, Pakistan lacks initiative to control ever increasing visual pollution in urban areas.

Hanging wires, unsystematic display of billboards and hoarding of different sizes along roads and on shops, open storage of trash, mushrooming of cell phone towers, unplanned buildings and display of flexes and banners for electioneering is a normal practice in major cities including Lahore. This practice is going uncontrolled as there is no law to check the menace of visual pollution.

Haphazard growth of structures not only disturbs the view but also cause negative impression on human minds.

“There is no provision of checking visual pollution in Environmental Protection Act. The agency could only check air, noise and water pollution. As such it (EPA) cannot redress complaints regarding visual pollution”, said leading lawyer and environmentalist Rafeh Alam.

“Local governments and development authorities implement regulations regarding safety standards and they have nothing to do with hazards relating to visual outlook,” he said, adding there was need of doing legislation for checking ever increasing visual pollution.

“About three years back, the City District Government Lahore managed to replace boards of different sizes on The Mall with the ones with same size by taking traders into confidence. There is need of creating awareness regarding social and corporate responsibilities of companies.

“The companies should be taken on board and asked to adopt approved standards for outdoor advertisement. It will yield desired results with the passage of time,” Alam stressed.

Leading architect and environmentalist Imrana Tiwana also advocated putting into place new laws, implementation and proper monitoring to create environments free of visual pollutants. “Clean City Laws like the Clean Air Act Laws need to regulate billboards and polluting commercial hoardings.

“A Clean City Campaign and Urban Skyline Assessment Policies must be strategised to create awareness that will have far reaching impacts on the well being of every citizen,” she emphasised.

“In the developed world, billboards are regulated. The laws regulating the places where hoardings are to be put up are strictly enforced. It has been over four years now that one of the biggest cities in the western world has banned any form of outdoor advertising. In Sao Paulo, Brazil, billboards, outdoor video screens and ads on buses and taxis as well as pamphlets have become illegal.

“It is both remarkable and ironic that a city with tremendous pollution, poverty issues and the largest consumer market in South America has taken such a radical pioneering step,” she said.

“In Japan, there are plans to strengthen the already strict rules for outdoor advertising, including a ban on rooftop advertising in certain cities. The aim is to preserve the skyline. In New York, the famous Times Square has hundreds of hoardings and billboards. This activity is strictly prohibited in the rest of the city,” she added.

Ms Tiwana further stressed the need of similar laws and enforcement in Pakistan where rate of urbanisation was high and causing irreversible degradation and damage to the natural and built environments.