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Delhi under camera scan

New Delhi, Jan. 30: A technology relying on satellites, software and ground cameras could soon help municipal authorities in the capital in the real-time monitoring of illegal constructions, land encroachment and garbage pickup.

The science and technology ministry today announced plans to introduce a geographic information system (GIS) that uses satellite imagery and ground cameras in a 20-sq-km area of Delhi to create virtual 3D representations of city streets and buildings.

However, a technology law expert said that while the proposal is laudable, the network of cameras could also spark concerns about “Big Brother” on the street.

Science and technology minister Kapil Sibal said the GIS technology would also be used in traffic management, property tax collection and myriad aspects of city planning. The project will cost Rs 5 crore and is expected to be completed in six months on a trial basis in Delhi’s cramped Chandni Chowk locality among other areas.

The technology, originally developed by engineers at the Russian Academy of Sciences, is based on software that combines information from several sources of data ' satellite imagery, fixed ground cameras and mobile ground cameras.

A project scientist said about 60 cameras would be positioned in the 20-sq-km area.

The Survey of India will modify the technology to produce virtual 3D representations of streets, buildings and city blocks to create a database of structures that would include fine details of buildings, including their height, width and architectural features.

“The system will send real-time alerts to a central monitoring station whenever a significant change is spotted on a building or a street,” Sibal said.

Any illegal construction or land encroachment will be picked up and the authorities alerted. The system will prevent municipal officers from evading responsibility.

Sibal said this was a concept-proving exercise that could eventually be extended to other parts of the capital and other cities.

“But cameras on the street could pick up a lot of information that could be potentially misused,” said Pawan Duggal, an expert in technology and cyber law.

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