KARACHI: The Sindh government is going to formally launch a “video surveillance project” with 10,000 high-definition cameras to be installed at 2,000 spots in the city at an initial cost of Rs10 billion, replacing the existing system being run by police, officials said on Sunday.

The project will formally kick off on Monday when the SI Global — a private technology organisation — begins its work as a “consultant” to the provincial authorities advising them on how to make the system effective and lasting. The consultant had been tasked to complete this job within three months after which the execution phase would be initiated, the officials explained.

“The Supreme Court had ordered the provincial authorities to develop an effective video surveillance system in the city when it had been informed that footage obtained through the existing system had failed to help police in identifying suspects,” said an official privy to the project’s details.

Envisaged by former Karachi nazim Syed Mustafa Kamal, the then city government had formally launched its Command and Control System for the surveillance of two signal-free corridors — Sharea Faisal to SITE and Surjani Town — in June 2008.

The new system will become part of Safe City project

Later, the Sindh police, too, launched a separate video surveillance system for Karachi in 2010 with an initial estimated cost of Rs500 million. In 2013, the police took control of the local government’s Command and Control Centre. Currently, the Sindh police operate nearly 2,000 CCTV cameras across the city.

However, quality of the system always remained under question and finally the provincial authorities have moved to improve the technology, replacing the existing two-megapixel cameras with the high-definition ones.

The SI Global would complete its consultancy job by the year end after which, the official said, the Sindh government would go for acquisition and installation phase. “The cameras will be installed initially at 2,000 key locations of Karachi,” said the official. “These 2,000 locations have been selected after feedback from intelligence agencies, Karachi police and special units of the Sindh police like Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) and Special Investigation Unit (SIU).”

The official expressed the hope that the project would be completed before the end of the current financial year. Once the project was completed, the video surveillance system for Karachi would become part of the Safe City project, he added.

“The objective of Safe City project is to build public safety by improving the Sindh government efficiency pertaining to emergency response, command and dispatching, strengthening the ability of risk control, emergency management, and making it capable of dealing with all kinds of social security events and sudden emergencies, such as crimes, traffic accidents, street criminal activities, terrorist attacks, natural disasters and so on,” said the official while explaining the concept of Safe City project.

“To ensure public safety, government and municipal agencies require the most advanced security solutions. The Safe City project actually is a concept to develop a technology-based integrated solutions for all civic, law-enforcement and investigation agencies so that they can proactively assess, investigate and manage high-risk situations. It will also assist them for on-foot investigations and criminal pursuits, collection of evidence for crime scene and in counter-terrorist operations.”

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2017