Drones to check on lit­ter­bugs, clean­li­ness and smok­ing

Drones are use­ful to de­tect of­fend­ers over a wide area be­fore author­i­ties mo­bilise en­force­ment units to ap­pre­hend cul­prits

New Straits Times - - Opinion - The writer, an avid cof­fee drinker, is NST’s po­lit­i­cal desk spe­cial­ist writer. He also has a pen­chant for point­ing out the ob­vi­ous

congress sched­uled to be held in Shah Alam. In the state cap­i­tal, deemed to be PKR’s power seat for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive term, the party plans to re­ju­ve­nate its morale due to ebbing ties with Pas, apart from the in­fight­ings.

Sources are say­ing res­o­lu­tions would likely be on con­sol­i­dat­ing ma­chiner­ies be­tween mem­bers of the pact — DAP, PKR, PPBM and PAN — just as Barisan Na­sional’s much-touted JR Plus. Fault lines, how­ever, may still tra­verse into PKR’s co­op­er­a­tion with Dr Ma­hathir es­pe­cially.

PKR pres­i­dent Datuk Seri Dr Wan Az­izah Wan Is­mail is ex­pected to con­vince her party mem­bers that all will be fine de­spite pre­vi­ous grudges, al­though sev­eral pock­ets of rank and file re­main adamant against a pact with Dr Ma­hathir.

Her deputy, Azmin, had been busy criss-cross­ing Europe un­der the ban­ner of In­vestSe­lan­gor, a cam­paign to at­tract in­vestors to set up busi­nesses in the crown jewel state. It is learnt that he had con­veyed opin­ions to the PKR po­lit­i­cal bureau on Pas while over­seas, al­though de­tails are sketchy.

Azmin’s worry will be whether there will be enough time to re­pair the dam­age done.

ED­U­CAT­ING the pub­lic, chang­ing the mind­set and rais­ing civic con­scious­ness are not ex­actly class­room sub­jects that can change bad habits.

It is a curse when a so­ci­ety looks at the world as a dust­bin with no con­science or re­morse and takes to lit­ter­ing as a norm, leav­ing the clear­ing of the mess in­sen­si­tively and with­out guilt to oth­ers who are paid to do the job.

When it is not a cul­ture, en­force­ment of by-laws to stop the bad habits may be the best solution to check the prob­lem from be­com­ing vir­u­lent, and it has to start at school with strong sup­port from par­ents at home.

Ja­pan and South Korea are the best ex­am­ples of the high­est de­gree of civic con­scious­ness, with lay­ers upon lay­ers of gen­er­a­tions pay­ing at­ten­tion to hy­giene and clean­li­ness that has be­come a cul­ture — for them, lit­ter­ing is a sin.

But here, de­spite numer­ous cam­paigns, con­cerns on lit­ter­ing only pre­vail dur­ing cam­paigns; once they are over, the aware­ness is for­got­ten un­til the next in­ci­dent, and the cy­cle be­gins again. There are many sig­nages that warn about lit­ter­ing and smok­ing at pub­lic places, but they are of lit­tle use. Even with the penal­ties spelt out, they fall on deaf ears. We can­not blame the author­i­ties be­cause they can­not be ev­ery­where to nab the lit­ter bugs.

The Tereng­ganu gov­ern­ment may have found the cure, but only time can tell how ef­fec­tive drones can be in all eight dis­tricts. The drones were pri­mar­ily in­tended to mon­i­tor projects ap­proved by the state Eco­nomic Plan­ning Unit.

It now has RM60,000 worth of drones at the dis­posal of the local author­i­ties. Apart from their pri­mary task of mon­i­tor­ing the progress of projects, the drones will also be used to mon­i­tor pub­lic parks with the in­ten­tion of im­pos­ing fines as spelt out un­der by-laws.

The eyes in the sky are to be shared with other de­part­ments, in­clud­ing the Land and Mines Depart­ment and Drainage and Ir­ri­ga­tion Depart­ment. The drones can also be used to mon­i­tor traf­fic flow and il­le­gal oc­cu­pa­tion of state land.

The use of the drones is lim­it­less and the ac­cu­racy of the in­for­ma­tion is as­sured, al­low­ing en­force­ment units to re­act quickly ei­ther to nab lit­ter­bugs, clear clogged drains, re­move ob­sta­cles that ob­struct traf­fic flow, iden­tify pot­holes and cap­ture van­dals red-handed.

The use of the drones com­ple­ments the closed-cir­cuit tele­vi­sions cam­eras that are in place at strate­gic lo­ca­tions in town cen­tres in all dis­tricts. The drones are an ex­ten­sion of the sur­veil­lance ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the local author­i­ties.

Al­though the bat­tery for the drones last about 45 min­utes, it is suf­fi­cient time for the silent flight and high-res­o­lu­tion cam­eras to pick up all the nec­es­sary de­tails for the author­i­ties to act on.

With smok­ing pro­hib­ited at pub­lic ar­eas and recre­ational parks, the drones can be use­ful in de­tect­ing of­fend­ers over a wide area be­fore mo­bil­is­ing en­force­ment units to ap­pre­hend cul­prits.

The drones can also be used to mon­i­tor con­trac­tors given land­scap­ing jobs or garbage collec­tion to en­sure they keep to the sched­ule.

It is learnt that the of­fi­cers who are tasked to ma­noeu­vre the drones have un­der­gone train­ing once. That one-day train­ing may have pro­vided them with the ba­sics, but to be pro­fi­cient, they have to master it or risk los­ing an RM8,000 equip­ment.

The move to use drones by the local author­i­ties could have been in­spired by the use of sim­i­lar equip­ment by the state Forestry Depart­ment in its ef­fort to check il­le­gal log­ging in for­est re­serves.

The depart­ment has been us­ing a drone since last year as a move to off­set the short­age of man­power and to pro­vide the en­force­ment unit with pre­cise in­for­ma­tion be­fore mount­ing raids at il­le­gal log­ging sites.

With just one drone, the depart­ment’s 10-men en­force­ment unit has achieved con­sid­er­able suc­cess, in­clud­ing ar­rests of il­le­gal log­gers and seizures of logs as well as log­ging equip­ment. And the depart­ment’s drone is equipped with an in­frared cam­era to de­tect activities in the jungle at night.

Un­for­tu­nately, the en­force­ment unit has to mon­i­tor forests in eight dis­tricts. Al­though their suc­cesses have not al­ways been easy, they made friends among vil­lage folk and com­mu­nity lead­ers who share sim­i­lar con­cerns on the im­pact of il­le­gal log­ging.

It is hoped that the local author­i­ties will put the drones to good use to keep their towns safe and clean and ef­fec­tively en­force by-laws to teach civic con­scious­ness and good habits to mem­bers of the pub­lic.

The writer is NST's Spe­cial­ist Writer based in Tereng­ganu. He is an en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist and en­joys cap­tur­ing the beauty of flora and fauna in their frag­ile en­vi­ron­ment. He draws his in­spi­ra­tion from cross coun­try drives on and off-road ad­ven­tures

With smok­ing pro­hib­ited at pub­lic ar­eas and recre­ational parks, the drones can be use­ful

in de­tect­ing of­fend­ers.

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