All city traffic cameras on the blink

Published May 23, 2013 09:04am

KARACHI, May 22: Nearly 200 cameras installed across the city for traffic management have been out of service for more than five months, compelling the system operators to depend on wireless sets and phones instead of real-time footage to monitor and manage traffic, it emerged on Wednesday.

While the cameras fell into disuse after a broadband company disconnected the multi-million traffic management system over non-payment of connectivity charges in December last year, there has been no maintenance of the hi-tech accessories since then.

Background interviews with senior officials and interaction with the system operators working at the command and control centre suggest that the situation is the outcome of mainly the lethargic approach of people at the helm of affairs, who hardly made any serious attempt to revive the system.

“A total of 198 cameras went off in December last year,” said an official privy to the details of the development over the five months.

“Initially it was the issue of non-payment of connectivity charges to a broadband company that led to disconnection. Then the entire system was almost left abandoned, with the authorities concerned not taking any serious notice of it.”

He said the command and control centre set up at the Central Police Office to monitor footage of traffic through the 198 cameras lost its utility. The officials assigned with the task of traffic management through the facility were compelled to rely on wireless sets and phones for monitoring traffic.

“The cameras were installed at some 40 different locations — mainly busy traffic intersections — in the city,” said the official.

He added: “For more than two years they served the purpose as traffic management was very much relied on the technology. The absence of the hi-tech system now has certainly affected the output and effectiveness of traffic police.”

The police took over the operation of the cameras for traffic management under an e-policing project in January 2011 after the Sindh ministry of information technology, which had designed and financed the system, declined to run it due to financial constraints, official sources said. They added that the police took over the control of the 198 cameras under an arrangement with the IT ministry that the police would bear their operational cost.

Launched with much fanfare, the system has, however, faced a number of issues over the past two years that kept it under-utilised.

When asked about the operations and maintenance of the multi-million system that lost its effectiveness, DIG traffic Abdul Khaliq Sheikh, who assumed office only last month, said: “We have taken up the issue and already completed a survey of the cameras.”

“In the first phase, we have gathered the details of faults or requirement of the repairs. There are multiple reasons [for the lack of maintenance] and we have planned all the problems will be fixed,” he added.

A hydraulic crane offered by the city government was being used for physical testing of the cameras and survey, the officer said.

He added once the problems were fixed, further steps would be taken to make the system durable and reliable.

As the DIG traffic was confident about putting the system back on track within the ‘shortest possible time’, the sources aware of the development said the carelessness of the officials concerned cost the police around Rs6 million under maintenance cost.

Apart from the traffic management system, the Sindh police over a year ago had launched a Rs690-million video surveillance system in Karachi for round-the-clock monitoring of the city through cameras.

The Pakistan Peoples Party-led coalition had increased the Sindh police budget by 131 per cent in five years allocating Rs39.3 billion to them in 2012-13 from Rs17.02 billion set aside for them in 2007-08.


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