KARACHI: The Safe City project in Karachi, which promised the installation of 10,000 CCTV cameras, has been delayed for seven years despite a Supreme Court order to launch it in 2016.
The joint venture between the Sindh government and the National Radio Telecommunication Corporation (NRTC) has been plagued by multiple setbacks, resulting in a staggering 300 percent increase in the estimated cost of the project.
Initially budgeted at Rs10 billion in 2011, when it was approved, the cost of the project has now risen to Rs40 billion. The project was set to include the installation of CCTV cameras, the establishment of command and control centres, the introduction of face and vehicle recognition software, and a biometric system to identify culprits.
Street crime in Pakistan’s largest city has reached alarming levels in recent years, leaving residents feeling unsafe and vulnerable. Incidents of mugging, theft, and violent crime have risen sharply, with police struggling to keep up with the growing number of reports.
The situation has become so dire that many residents have taken to carrying firearms for their own protection. The lack of surveillance in the city is seen as a major contributing factor to the rise in street crime.
Even so, despite plans to monitor the streets, the project has been delayed for over seven years, and is yet to be launched.
In April 2021, following pressure from the federal government of Imran Khan, the province had approved Rs30 billion to launch the project. In May of last year, Syed Murad Ali Shah, the chief minister, ordered his administration to a detailed plan for the project and invite bids for its physical launch within the next four months.
However, despite his order, the plan is yet to take off. The delay is due to multiple reasons including increasing costs, lack of coordination and political wrangling.
The need for surveillance in Karachi is now more urgent than ever. CCTV cameras not only act as a deterrent to crime, but they also provide vital evidence that can be used to bring criminals to justice.
In addition, the installation of a command and control centre, such as the one established in Lahore, and the introduction of the face and vehicle recognition software and biometric systems would also be a major step forward in the fight against street crime in the city.
The ballooning cost and delays from the provincial authorities have raised serious questions about the government’s performance which critics say is nothing short of a travesty.