03 June 2020

Cover Story



With 61 per cent of the world population expected to live in cities by 2030, we are in the throes of what is being called the ‘Century of the city’. Back home in India, the urban population is expected to reach 600 million by 2031, an increase of nearly 40 per cent from 2011. Rapid urbanization is bringing with itself an extraordinary wave of challenges including affordable housing, water management, sanitation, health and building climate change-resilient infrastructure reports Shailaja Sharma


In the last few years, unprecedented flooding in cities like Chennai, Mumbai, Gurugram, increasing traffic congestion have time and again brought to fore the perils of population explosion and poor urban planning. While the concept of ‘Smart cities / future cities / digital cities might conjure up different pictures for different people, the fundamental idea is to create cities that are livable and sustainable. According to Harish Kumar Sharma, Chief Business Officer, Rudrabhishek Enterprises Ltd (REPL), “The key challenge is to keep pace with the increasing population burden, futuristic planning, and development of new centers for economic activity leading to the emergence of new cities.”


“Every infrastructure planning has a shelf life in terms of accommodating the needs of its resident up to a certain period. After that, the needs change in terms of scale and nature, both.
It requires being periodically relooked, reworked and redesigned. So, it is mainly the proper urban planning which gives a platform to such needs, in order to make the city smart.”, he adds.


The “Smart City Mission” of the Government of India to develop 109 cities as Smart Cities, while being a much-needed initiative is still quite slow in its progression. Out of the 9,860 crores released to 60 cities, only seven percent have been utilized so far. Of `196 crore released to each of 40 cities, Ahmedabad has spent the maximum amount of `80.15 crore, followed by Indore (`70.69 crore), Surat (`43.41 crore) and Bhopal `42.86 crore.


Resource crunch, lack of adequate private sector interest, land acquisition problems, lack of proper coordination between different government agencies and a shortage of urban planners are holding up many projects. Plus in country driven populism and political plurality, any long-term planning is always suffused with grave uncertainty.


But globally the idea of Smart Cities mission of India is drawing a lot of interest. Several Taiwanese companies have come together under the banner of Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) to explore investment in sectors including petrochemicals, electric vehicles, food processing, automobile parts and components, machine tools and information technology. While India and Russia are expanding their partnership beyond traditional domains into IT software and hardware solutions to back India’s smart cities and infrastructure programs.


According to Mangesh Wadaje, Director & CEO, Highbar Technocrat, “India is experiencing *Digital Transformation* through Smart Cities, Urban Transportation & Infrastructure Development Projects.Information Technology is at the core of this Digital Transformation. Highbar has taken the initiative to gain the first mover advantage through implementation of breakthrough Technologies like 5-Dimensional Digital Project Management Platform at Maha Metro, ICT Implementation at AURIC, India's first Industrial Smart City at Aurangabad and at Bhubaneswar Smart City. In enabling robust, secure and scalable technology solutions for infrastructure mega projects that represent tomorrow's India, Highbar focuses on ensuring citizens using this infrastructure will enjoy a better experience than ever before."


According to Malabika Mandal, Senior Industry Analyst, Visionary Innovation Research Group, Frost & Sullivan, “Smart Cities have the potential to create around $30 to $40 billion business opportunities for the information technology sector alone.”


A recent example is a new initiative, ‘Smart City 4.0’, launched by Innovation Acceleration Group at University of California Berkeley Executive Education (UC Berkeley). Introduced in collaboration with the United States India Strategic Partnership Forum and 1M1B, a non-profit body, Smart City 4.0 aims at developing the skills of young innovators, startups and large corporations for solutions that make cities "smart, safe and sustainable". As a part of the ongoing initiative, India's Smart City Co-Innovation Lab will be established in Allahabad, a city that has been identified by the government under its 100 smart cities mission. "In a year, we are looking at about 15-20 startups to be produced from one lab," said Manav Subodh, director, International Development, Innovation Acceleration Group.


The programme will invite young people between the ages of 18 and 29 to co-create smart city solutions after understanding issues that affect the people of a city. The areas of focus will be artificial intelligence, water, energy, transportation, waste management, healthcare, climate and smart agriculture.


With a lot of activity on-ground, we decided to take a look at some of the typical features of a smart city as defined by the Smart City Mission, and assess where we are vis-a-vis the vision.



Promoting mixed land use in area based developments to make land use more efficient.


A new crop of smart cities in the mammoth Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) project including Dholera (Gujarat), Aurangabad Industrial City (AURIC) in Maharashtra, Vikram Udyogpuri (MP) and Integrated Industrial Township Greater Noida (IITGNL) in UP are propelling the Smart City Mission in India. These autonomous, state-of-the-art industrial cities with high-speed road and rail connectivity, logistics hubs, dependable power and water, waste management and recycling, and commercial and social infrastructure are aiming to trigger local businesses and boost investments. Construction of the trunk infrastructure and land allocations is already underway in four of the eight cities planned in the first phase of the project. Up to 65 percent of the project is being offered on PPP mode creating sizeable investment opportunities. In Dholera, the Gujarat state government has undertaken infrastructure projects worth `3,000 crore including setting up a Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP). Part of the Pipali-Dholera Pipeline Project, the project will have the capacity of processing 20 million liters a day and will supply water to Dholera.


In light of the public-private partnership (PPP) model, the Naya Raipur City, the capital City of the newly established State of Chhattisgarh has come up with a host of new projects like Smart Parking, Smart Payment System, Solid Waste management, Roof Top Solar Project, and area-based market redevelopment.


Further down south, AURIC is the next planned and greenfield smart industrial city in Maharashtra. Being developed across 10000 acres, AURIC’s smart concept of ‘walk to work’ is expected to generate investments worth `70,000 crore and jobs to three lakh people. This new integrated industrial township will be a mix of office spaces, residences, hotels, large and small format retails, schools, hospitals, parks and entertainment hubs. 60 per cent of the total land is reserved for industrial purposes and 40 per cent for residential, commercial, institutions, open spaces and socio-cultural amenities. Hyosung Corporation, the South Korean industrial conglomerate has committed an investment of `3,000 crore in AURIC to build a factory for manufacturing spandex.


According to sources at Embassy Industrial Parks, a joint venture between realty developer Embassy Group and private equity firm Warburg Pincus, the onslaught of technological advancements, strategic urban planning and sufficient provisions of utilities is encouraging a good mix of both domestic and international companies to set up base in India, creating a thrust in several ancillary segments including the warehousing sector. Responding to the market development, the company recently acquired 24 acres in Gurgaon for `38 crore to set up a warehousing facility and invested another `350 crores in developing a 1.1-million sq ft industrial park at Chakan, Pune. The group is also further planning to invest about `1,600 crores as equity to build 7-8 industrial parks over the next six years in Delhi, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Pune, Ahmedabad, and Kolkata.


Another smart city coming up quietly but steadily in the south is Davanagere. Located at a distance of about 260 km from Bengaluru, the city is witnessing a spate of new projects under the smart city mission. Speaking on the development, Ashaad R Shariff, Managing Director, Davanagere Smart City Ltd (DSCL) said, “Davanagere smart city has initiated 44 projects as per the smart city plan approved by the GOI. Out of which 13 projects costing around `86 Cr have been started on the ground, 5 projects costing around `98 Cr are under tendering, 4 projects costing `60 Cr are awaiting technical sanction from the higher authority. For the rest of the projects, the detailed projects are under finalization.”


The DSCL is aiming to tender the projects under DPR stage by the end of May 2018. A major part of the project is the retrofitting of about 75 acres of the Mandakki Bhatti area in the Old City, where about 1,000 puffed rice factories are located. While polluting furnaces will be swapped by electrical, environment-friendly machines, the area is also looking forward to an economic overhaul through the development of commercial and retail spaces with solar panels on rooftops, multi-level car parking facilities, open green spaces and a public plaza. There are also plans for a library, a knowledge center and upgradation of a government hospital.


In the north, the Shimla Smart City Mission plan aims to rebuild the old city bazaars, shift the maze of overhead electric cables underground, create new parking, smart streets and the roads and pedestrian paths and smart transport for easy movement of the public in the city. Following recommendations of a high-level committee set up by it, the Himachal Pradesh government has also decided to challenge the NGT orders relating to the ban on new constructions in Shimla’s green belt and core areas in the Supreme Court. While in the northeast, 464 projects costing `14,124 crore have been approved for eight cities (Guwahati, Kohima, Imphal, Agartala, Namchi, Pasighat, Aizawl, and Gangtok) of the Northeast under the Smart Cities Mission. It includes `826-crore Brahmaputra riverfront development project in Guwahati and Rs 409-crore ropeway project in Kohima.




Housing and inclusiveness - expand housing opportunities for all:

While the affordable housing movement is still in its nascent stage, Sobha, the Bengaluru-based real estate brand, recently marked its foray into the Gujarat market with an investment of over `500 crore towards residential development in Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City). GIFT is India’s 1st Operational Smart City and International Financial Services Centre with a host of facilities being introduced for the first time in India including district cooling system, underground utility tunnel, and automated vacuum waste collection. Presently, 200 companies are operational at GIFT City, employing around 8,000 people.


In another part of Gujarat, a slum area development project on PPP basis worth `450 crores are already underway in Ahmedabad.


While, Naya Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgarh is scripting its own brand of firsts for citizens with intelligent lighting systems, pay and use parking systems, intelligent transport systems, Wi-Fi touchscreens across the city, display boards providing real-time information, crisis response systems, traffic re-routing applications based on real-time traffic data. With its state-of-the-art infrastructure, the city is attracting a lot of attention especially from NRI for both residential and commercial properties. It is already one among five other cities (Indore, Mysore, Pune, Pimpri Chinchwad) in the country chosen as ‘Demonstration Cities’ for the Centre’s ambitious Sustainable Urban Transport Project (SUTP).



Creating walkable localities –reduce congestion, air pollution and resource depletion, boost local economy, promote interactions and ensure security.


Bhubaneswar after installing automatic traffic signal systems is now focusing its attention on investing in Pelican systems to help pedestrians cross roads with ease. With this system, the pedestrian can with a press of a button change the signal to red for vehicles and green for pedestrians to cross the road without any hassle. Presently, three such pelican systems are undergoing a trial run, while others are being installed. The city also approved the Smart Janpath project last year which includes redesigning pedestrian paths, creating bicycle lanes, parking facilities, landscaping, utility corridors and vendor kiosks to ensure safe and comfortable access to commuters, including walkers and cyclists. The city is also exploring a public bicycle-sharing project to be run in tandem with the Smart Janpath plan. Ranchi too is exploring the cycle sharing project to give commuters an eco-friendly transport alternative. Ahmedabad-based company Chartered Speed, which is overseeing the project, is building 120 cycle docks in Ranchi. Under the plan, 1,200 cycles will operate from 120 docks.


The public bicycle-sharing scheme launched jointly by the Pune Smart City Development Corporation Limited (PSCDCL) and Pune Municipal Corporation already seems to be a hit in Pune. Since its launch in December 2017, more than 3.5 lakh citizens have already used PEDL bicycles. Under the scheme, the bicycles are made available to the public at a nominal charge. The aim of the PSCDCL is to reduce the usage of private two-wheelers and cars on roads from 47percent to 10percent and increase use of non-motorized transport (walking and cycling) to 50percent by 2031. Dedicated cycle tracks of 470-km length are also in the works, with the 73 km of existing tracks to be integrated into the cycle network. Four private players that signed MoUs include Zoomcar PEDL, Chinese company Ofo, Yulu and start-up Mobycy.


In another first, the Pune Smart City Street Re-design project was selected for an award by the Indian Institute of Interior Designers (IIID) in the category “affordable design for masses”. The key features of the project are raised crossings for speed breakers, concrete bollard footpaths, green railings at the median, provision of Smart Elements, MSEB feeder pillars covered with perforated sheet screen shutters, provision of music, street sculptures and games on wide footpaths with the proper seating arrangement.


While the biggest project underway in Jaipur right now is the development of a 'smart road' with features like every electric pole having CCTV camera, Wi-Fi system, intelligent lights, environment monitoring system, information display system, charging points, bins with sensors. Projects worth `200 have been completed and worth `900 crores are in the pipeline, which includes construction of four underground tunnels and three large underground parking areas.




Preserving and developing open spaces - parks, playgrounds, and recreational spaces in order to enhance the quality of life of citizens, reduce the urban heat effects in Areas and generally promote eco-balance:


While in Ajmer, a `250 crore project for the escape channel project is in the works. The city is developing promenades along the Ana Sagar Lake, which is situated in the center of the city. The Command and Control Centre that was developed by Department of Information Technology (DoIT) is already in place.


The pink-walled city of Jaipur is currently ramping up its scenic quotient by building three new parks under the smart city project. The parks will include an open gym area, yoga center and play areas for kids.


While Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) has partnered with Gandhinagar-based Indian Institute of Public Health (IIPH), US-based Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) along with other groups to design and implement the 6th edition of Heat Action Plan (HAP) to protect city dwellers from climate fueled scorching temperatures. HAP includes several key elements like expanding use of cool roofs, reflective paint on buildings to inside temperatures lower, increasing access to drinking water, an early warning system used during heat waves, a robust public education campaign about how to avoid harm from excessive heat, inter-agency coordination to alert residents of predicted high temperatures and training for healthcare professionals to prevent heat-related illnesses and death, and mapping of high-risk areas and communications. The idea for HAP came about in the aftermath of the heat wave in May 2010, which led to 1,344 additional deaths that month, as compared to the 2009 and 2011 average.


“Ahmedabad was the first city to prepare and implement heat action plan, which has now been adopted by 30 cities in 11 states, which face extreme heat waves during summer,” said Mihir Bhatt of All India Disaster Mitigation Institute (AIDMI), which also works with the civic body in Ahmedabad and many other places. The city has also replaced nearly 1.5 million streetlights with LED lights, which are connected to a command and control system.


Bharat Heavy Electricals (BHEL) has entered a new vertical of water purification, by winning the order for purification of Telibandha Lake, from Raipur Smart City Limited (RSCL). The order is the first ever order of its kind from the Smart Cities segment using environment-friendly Phytorid Technology developed by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) under the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) and includes operation & maintenance for five years thereafter.




Promoting a variety of transport options - Transit Oriented Development (TOD), public transport and last mile para-transport connectivity;


Bengaluru is currently testing a prototype of an intelligent traffic management solution in collaboration with the Electronics City Township Authority (ELCITA). The system includes capturing video streams from several cameras and processing them using artificial intelligence so that typical traffic management tasks such as vehicle detection, traffic density estimation and control of traffic lights can be automated for real-time performance.


And Chennai has become the first Indian city to electrify its bus transportation system. Under the ‘Smart’ initiative, it has now joined the list of C40 cities (cities like Beijing, London, and Copenhagen) working towards reducing the greenhouse gas emissions from goods and services. Chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami has recently signed an agreement with C40 Cities, declaring the State’s commitment to bring in zero-emission public transport vehicles.


Another project in the works is the ‘Safe Ahmedabad project’. Once installed it can modernize the traffic movement in the city by employing a host of solutions including an automatic number plate detection system, a command, and control system, red light violation detection system, traffic management, smart parking and to control the traffic rule violators.




Making governance citizen-friendly and cost effective


Last year, Jaipur also become the first city in South Asia to monitor and operate smart city infrastructure via a single network. While Bhubaneswar is all set to open an Integrated Public Service Centre where citizens will be able to avail themselves of an array of services, which includes paying utility bills and applying for various welfare schemes. Raipur has also entered into a contract agreement with Axis Bank to start a unique Raipur city smart payment system to simplify payments for 55 public services, including city bus services, taxes levied by the municipal corporation, and parking fees.


While Bhopal awarded a contract to Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) to build and deploy a new command control center to collect and manage data, as well as monitor the city’s civic utilities and services. The initiative with HPE is being implemented in six other cities in the state: Gwalior, Jabalpur, Indore, Ujjain, Satna, and Sagar. The unified cloud command center will handle and leverage data generated by these cities, which have a combined population of more than 20 million people.


The prepaid Janmitra card from Ahmedabad can also be seamlessly used for all major transport systems, paying bills, parking fee, recreational areas, municipal bills, utility payments and shopping. It can be used like a debit card.


Command and control centers have become operational in four cities such as Surat, Rajkot, Nagpur, and Vadodara.


While the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation is going to lay a 1,000km optical fibre network, install 270 Wi-Fi hotspots, 50 smart kiosks and Variable Message Display systems. Citizens can use smart kiosks (installed at government offices, bus stops, markets) to pay all utility bills, recharge PMPML's proposed MI card, book railway and bus tickets and also tickets for events around the city. Variable Message Display systems will share real-time basis information and guidance on traffic congestions, diversions, emergencies, programmes, weather and other important announcements. A total of 60 VMD systems are to be installed at traffic junctions and markets.


The Pimpri Chinchwad Smart City Limited has invited bids to select a system integrator to implement these projects with eleven national and international companies have expressed interest in the projects.



Giving an identity to the city - based on its main economic activity, such as local cuisine, health, education, arts and craft, culture, sports goods, furniture, hosiery, textile, dairy, etc;


Fundamental to a smart city’s growth is its ability to identify what type of city it is and what that means for its development.


To revitalize urban public spaces and socially activating the area beside generating economic activity, Jaipur Smart City Ltd (JSCL) has planned to develop heritage walks, an eco-friendly corridor as well as a night bazaar at Chaura Rasta, in the heart of the Pink city. The JSCL would register up to 700 vendors who will be allowed to set up stalls, including eateries, between 9 pm and 1 am. The project will provide entertainment, culture, and shopping to citizens after office hours.


In Aligarh, efforts are on to promote the traditional lock industry with a plan to promote the sale of their products in the global market. Come January 2019, Allahabad would soon be able to boast of facilities like intelligent traffic signals (ITS), pan tilt zoom (PTZ) cameras, crowd management analytic and automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras, a smart parking system, environmental sensors and an efficient solid waste management system offered under the Smart City project to welcome visitors during the Kumbh fair. The district authorities are working to set up an Integrated Command & Control Centre (ICCC) at the Allahabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) with an objective to offer better services to Kumbh pilgrims.


While Naya Raipur is positioning itself as both a hi-tech State capital, but also an adventure sports destination. The four kms cycling track, Kayaking, Burma bridge, boating facility and a 2 kms skating track are some of the facilities already functional in the new capital city and a Jungle Safari comprising of four separate Safaris is in the works. The state government has also earmarked 258.48 hectares of land in the capital for setting up a ‘Nature Resort’ and a ‘Theme Park’.



Applying Smart Solutions to infrastructure and services in area-based development in order to make them better.


Aligarh has developed and deployed a low cost, non-energy demanding, eco-friendly solution for treating its waste. The research and development project was commissioned in 2013 as part of a bilateral agreement between the Government of India and European Commission. Professor Nadeem Khalil, Urban Specialist, Aligarh, says, “The effluent is of very high quality —like the wastewater from drains, nullahs of peri-urban areas of the city can be reused in the construction, irrigation, gardening, horticulture, etc. We have already used this technology for one of the project Swings —Safeguarding Water Resources in India with green and sustainable technologies. Even the Namami Gange programme has adopted this technology.”


According to Water and environment management solutions company, Ion Exchange (India) Ltd, more than 7,000 tonnes of waste is generated each day in large metros such as Mumbai and Delhi. Recently the company commissioned the country's first Andicos Waste to Energy system at Akshaya Patra, a fully-automated community kitchen near Hyderabad to treat wastewater and organic waste. Andicos, a joint initiative of Ion Exchange with Belgium-headquartered VITO and Europem provides an integrated waste-to-energy solution through the bio-methanation process. While the treated raw sewage is transformed into purified water that can be reused, the sludge generated in the process is then combined with organic kitchen waste generated in homes and communities to produce renewable energy and organic fertilizer. The `7-crore plant has been set up by Ion Exchange at Panaji and Rajkot too have taken impressive steps to improve their waste management practices. Panaji, in fact, aims to be a landfill-free city.


Diu Smart City has become the first city in India, that runs on 100 percent renewable energy during the day. Till last year, the city had been more than 70 percent of its power from Gujarat. 9 MW solar park spread over 50 hectares rocky barren land and installation of solar panels on the rooftops on 79 government buildings is now generating 1.3 MW annually. To further enhance its solar capacity, Diu is now offering residents a subsidy of `10, 000-50,000 for installing 1-5KW rooftop solar panels. Due to low-cost solar energy, power tariffs have been cut in the residential category by 10 percent last year and 15 per cent this year.


Rajasthan has so far been the pioneer in implementing LED lighting projects. In Ajmer, all the lights have been replaced with advanced LED lights, helping the city save amount to the tune of 40 percent.


Dharamshala is also news for installing "India's first city-wide sensor-based underground waste bin network". The system is based on the principles of segregation at source, waste to value, zero landfill and community ownership.






With a host of new ideas now on the ground, what remains to be seen is how well and how long are we able to sustain them. For the major challenge now confronting is not only how much we are growing, but how are we growing. And this challenge can be met only when policy makers, government, business, research & academia and local citizens join together to ideate new solutions in urban design. The choices we make now will sustain our cities and our way of life well into the future.


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