Operating video surveillance units for keeping an eye on ageing Mullaperiyar dam has become a daunting task for the disaster management experts as the units have to be operated sans power connection and cables to beam the visuals.

To make the job even more challenging, the robotic cameras cannot be installed anywhere on the dam structure as it is owned by Tamil Nadu with which the State had been fighting a protracted legal battle.

The State Executive Committee of the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority has now roped in an IT giant and a surveillance gadgets installation firm from Kochi for the job as the Department of Science and Technology (DST), which had agreed to partner with the Authority, backed out. Permission for site survey would be issued to the firms this week, an expert said.

Though the Authority had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the DST last year, the deal didn’t work out. The DST officials reportedly wrote to the State indicating that their technology was not ready to be shared with them. The original plan was to make the units operational during this monsoon season, he said.

The idea of installing remotely controlled video surveillance units for the dam came up during the Mullaperiyar crisis one and a half years ago when experts suggested early warning system to caution people living downstream about any possible dam break. There was also the demand for round-the-clock electronic vigil besides the alerts from the policemen guarding the dam, he said.

Early warning for people residing in areas between the dam and Idukki reservoir through hooters, SMS and telephone alerts to clusters of households would have to be made possible through the surveillance system. The alert system will be coordinated and warnings issued by the Idukki District Collector who can directly access the visuals. It would take hardly two seconds for the alerts to be released in case of any emergency.

The security personnel manning the dam still depend on solar power for the energy needs as the State Forest and Electricity Board authorities could not evolve a consensus on laying the power cables through the Periyar Tiger Reserve. The clearance of the Ministry of Environment and Forest is also required for trenching the area as the cables have to be laid through the reserve.

Beaming of visuals would be another major challenge as power and cable network could not be established. The possibility of beaming the visuals using Wi-Fi system and powering the cameras with lithium batteries will also be explored, he said.

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