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Air pollution sets back Delhi civic body’s smart parking project

The sensors installed by NDMC in August 2017 at busy surface parking lots in and around Connaught Place and other parts of central Delhi were supposed to tell drivers how many slots were vacant in a specific parking lot.

delhi Updated: Jul 28, 2018 15:17 IST
Vibha Sharma
Vibha Sharma
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Delhi pollution,NDMC,smart parking project
In August 2017, NDMC installed sensors at 35 ground-level parking lots which were meant to tell drivers how many parking slots were available in and around Connaught Place and other parts of central Delhi. (Mohd Zakir/HT File Photo)

An ambitious project that was meant to tell drivers how many parking slots were available in and around Connaught Place and other parts of central Delhi, has been derailed by an old, deadly foe — high pollution levels in the national Capital.

According to top officials familiar with the developments, one-third of the sensors installed at busy surface parking lots are malfunctioning — either not working at all or providing inaccurate data — because of dust particles and emissions from vehicles. The sensors, which were imported from Italy and installed at 35 ground-level parking lots, are part of a ‘smart parking’ project started by the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) in August 2017.

“We are facing a problem at surface parking lots because once the dust settles on these sensors, some of them stop transmitting signals or detecting availability status at parking slots,” said NDMC chairman Naresh Kumar.

The sensors were supposed to tell drivers how many slots were vacant in a specific parking lot. A smartphone application and an online service to book parking slots with payment channels such as e-wallets or internet banking was to be launched soon.

But last month, NDMC wrote to the contractor handling the project, to look for alternate sensors putting in limbo a plan that has already missed its original March 2018 deadline, Kumar said.

In Phase I, the NDMC had targeted that 87 parking lots would be covered by these sensors. The machines have so far been installed at 35 surface parking lots, including Connaught Place inner circle and its radial roads, said an official from the civic body who is not authorised to speak to media.

Under the ‘smart parking’ system, existing parking facilities at commercial hubs in Lutyens’ Delhi — Connaught Place (inner circle and radial roads), Shivaji Stadium, Baba Kharak Singh Marg and Janpath — are being renovated.

These now include parking sensors, ticketing devices, LED signs to indicate empty slots, automatic pay stations, CCTV cameras, and a mobile app for users. “With the help of sensors, occupancy status of each parking slot is transmitted to the command centre at Palika Parking and from there it will be shared to users via a mobile app and NDMC’s web portal,” said the second NDMC official quoted above.

DUST AND EMISSIONS TO BLAME
WHAT IS SENSOR-BASED PARKING?
Sensors are installed at parking lots to check availability status of slots and share information wirelessly to a server at command centres at Palika parking in Connaught Place
THE AIM
With the mobile app and NDMC web portal, users can access information, track location of parking lots and check occupancy status
THE PROBLEM
Sensors transmit signals through electromagnetic waves and dust absorbs the waves easily, which impacts functioning.
PARKING LOTS
PHASE I: Eight surface parkings at CP’s inner circle, 12 at middle circle, four at outer circle, Hanuman Road, Janpath, KG Marg, Shankar Market, Super Bazaar, Palika parking, Shivaji Stadium, Baba Kharak Singh Marg, Bengali Market, Sikander Lane, Safdar Hashmi Marg, Atul Grove Road
PHASE II: Bangla Sahib, Kali Mandir Lane, Yashwant Place, Delhi Haat, Malcha Marg Market, Rail Museum, Pandara Road, Patiala House, Khan Market, India Gate, Eastern Court, Khanna Market, Lodhi Colony, Sarojini Nagar Market

“These sensors transmit signals through electromagnetic waves and the dust absorbs the waves easily, which ultimately impacts their functioning,” said Dilip Ganguly, assistant professor at Centre for Atmospheric Sciences at IIT Delhi.

Delhi was in May 2018 named by the World Health Organization as the world’s most polluted megacity, particularly because of high dust levels and particulate matter. This June — otherwise considered an off-season for pollution levels which peak in the winter — PM10 particulate matter levels had shot up more than 8.5 times the daily safe standards because of a dust storm.

D Saha, the former chief of air quality laboratory, Central Pollution Control Board, said: “Dust pollution in severe in city due to its geographical location. The top soil is loose with no grass and intensity of rainfall is very low.”

The sensors offered benefits for parking lot operators, too. They could, for example, give data about when spaces are typically filled, and allow operators to improve occupancy rates.

“These sensors and other equipment have not been able to bring any difference in the parking system. Some of the sensors are either not functioning properly or damaged. We are still getting the cars parked manually,” said a parking attendant N-block in Connaught Place, who asked not to be named.

The civic agency has now set August end as the new deadline for completing the project.

“The concessionaire has been asked to fix the problem in another one month and make the project operational by August end, else we will impose fine. Apart from sensors, most of the other facilities are in place,” said Kumar.

First Published: Jul 28, 2018 12:32 IST