The numbers speak for themselves. A total investment of Rs 191,155 crore has been proposed by 90 cities under their smart city plans. Projects focussing on revamping an identified area or area-based development (ABD) projects are estimated to cost Rs 152,500 crore and smart initiatives across the city (pan-city initiatives) account for the remaining Rs 36,655 crore of investments. Besides, for ABD and pan-city projects, an amount of Rs 1,998.49 crore has been kept aside for the O&M cost of the mission and other contingencies. And so far, 82 smart cities (including 11 of the round three cities) have established their SPVs.
Meanwhile, projects worth Rs 135,459 crore in 2,855 projects are in various stages of implementation. About 147 projects worth Rs 1,872 crore have been completed and 396 projects at a cost of Rs 14,672 crore are currently under implementation. Further, tendering has started for 283 projects at Rs 16,549 crore and DPRs are being prepared for 2,029 projects worth Rs 102,366 crore. What's more, progress with respect to implementation of projects pertaining to smart solutions, smart roads, smart water and solar rooftops is underway (view list of upcoming projects worth over Rs 500 crore on Page 51).
'India's Smart Cities mission was conceptualised as an inspirational model and it deserves due credit for its success in having created a conceptual understanding of the framework of the pillars of smart living,' says Pratap Padode, Founder & Executive Director, Smart Cities Council India. 'The understanding of the rights of delivery of services has never been so transparent. Never have so many cities ever sought credit rating and thereby have now begun preparing annual accounts. Pune and now Hyderabad have raised finance through bonds. The victories maybe small but are scalable.'
'Increasingly, the world is seeking smarter, secure, more intelligent solutions and optimised utilisation of resources to enhance quality of life. With the mandate to build smart cities, India is rapidly gearing up to create smart infrastructure that will soon be the backbone of the economy,' says R Srinivasan, Executive Vice President & Head-Smart World Communication, L&T Construction. 'L&T, through its Smart World Communication business unit, is well-placed and equipped to offer smart solutions in the realms of smart security systems, smart communication and telecom network and smart infrastructure as a master systems integrator offering both infrastructure-building expertise combined with state-of-the-art IT capabilities. With a growing track record, L&T is helping create a safer, smarter and Digital India!'
For Dr Sumit
D Chowdhury, Founder & CEO, Gaia Smart Cities, a company focussed on design, development and implementation of smart city solutions, the success of smart cities can be viewed in two ways: 'One, the country has taken a huge leap towards thinking about projects in a holistic manner instead of in silos across multiple stakeholders; second, smart cities cannot be made overnight and nor can a general design be replicated across cities, as the history, culture, aspirations and constraints are different in every city. In this case, we have progressed at just about 10 per cent, which is good but certainly not optimal.'
The Smart Cities mission has created awareness among people at large about modernising their city and among city managers on the scope of improving infrastructure and services,' says Sudhir Krishna, Chairman, Committee on Standards for Smart Cities, Bureau of Indian Standards, 'To that extent, a lot of good has come from the mission. Cities such as Pune, Indore, Bhubaneswar and New Delhi have done well.'
In fact, T Ravinder Reddy, Partner, Grant Thornton India LLP, says, 'The Smart Cities mission has swiftly started showing results on the ground with technical and financial studies on projects nearing completion and request for proposal (RFP) documents being issued to interested bidders. The integrated command and control centre (ICC), for example, has generated much enthusiasm and interest among bidders. We have been able to successfully close the ICC project in Varanasi and are quickly moving towards sizing specifications, RFP stage and the bidding process in other cities.'
Making cities smart certainly will not be a cakewalk. This mission is such that it brings together all departments on a single table, making it demanding. However, the real challenge for the SPVs is to bond well enough for cities to really transform.
Dr Chowdhury adds that there are constraints on funds as well. 'Cities are yet to figure out the model to monetise their projects. Within the city, you have to figure out how to reclaim land, buildings and spaces, and finally all projects should be geared towards making quality of life of citizens better.'
Pointing out the challenges, Suresh Subudhi, Partner and Managing Director, The Boston Consulting Group, says, 'The government machinery has been designed to procure regular contracts. However, the smart solutions are dynamic and change rapidly. So, how does one tune the two mechanisms of smart cities and municipalities to be able to experiment and procure innovative solutions? The second challenge is the need for citizens to be at the centre of the design. Citizens and government both need to extend hands.'
Despite the challenges, there has been progress. Subudhi sees major traction in smart energy and smart mobility. 'We have to coordinate across multiple modes of transport,' he says. 'For example, in Mumbai, we have the suburban railway, bus system, the metro. The question is how to coordinate and integrate all these.'
Dr Chowdhury points to the success of LED projects, which have resulted in reduction in the cost of electricity for street lighting. He adds that CCTV has brought in transparency and security, resulting in e-payments. Also, a lot of measurement analytics have been undertaken in terms of waste and cleaning cities; the Swachh Bharat Mission has restarted over 100 waste-to-energy plants. There has also been a huge shift towards waste segregation. 'Mobility-wise, I am seeing a lot of cities moving towards introducing cycle paths and e-vehicles, and then there is a whole set of metros being created and bus transportation being thought through in various cities including multimodal transport hubs, and the future is exciting' he says.
'The energy front is usually tightly controlled by the discoms,' says a smart cities expert from one of India's leading consultancy firms. While these may want tighter control by integrating with the command and control centres, a lot of value addition can be done by leveraging the data already available with them. At the mobility end, there is a lot of interest on non-motorised motors such as public bike sharing, electric vehicles, etc, which will help reduce pollution levels within cities. Also, there are initiatives to integrate different modes of transport - the metro, bus and even non-motorised public bike sharing all need to come together to help a person move from Point A to Point B more easily and efficiently.
According to industry experts, waste management involves three to four aspects: For cities to know that the waste is being collected from the location; to be able to understand the route of the vehicle collecting waste; the administration being informed that the waste has been collected. And, of course, the entire process of collection to disposal û dump it, leverage it to generate energy or for any other efficient use. On that front, Internet of Things (IoT) is coming into play to a large extent; data, sensors, RFID tags, biometric attendance... all these linked with Aadhaar will give a lot of information to the ICC for ease of monitoring in real-time.
As for water management, most cities have been focussing on reducing non-revenue water, which is water lost through inefficiencies in the water network.
Much integration of services is being anticipated with the development of Information and Communication Technology (ICT)-based solutions. 'These services include safety and security from the policing perspective, water systems, solid waste management, lighting, traffic and smart transport,' elaborates Reddy.
All considered, the 100 cities represent a tremendous opportunity for everyone. 'Making cities smarter will not only bring in economic benefit to many, but an opportunity for skill development and employee generation,' reasons Krishna.
And Reddy adds, 'We have been able to generate good interest in projects in physical infrastructure, including water, affordable housing, smart road networks, solid waste management and other transport-related projects. The DPR and structuring of these projects are currently underway. We have also seen cities showcase projects that are city-specific.' For example, Jalandhar envisages the establishment of a sports stadium to capitalise on its existing sporting culture and Nagpur is leading the way in development of affordable housing projects.
Indeed, from transportation and waste management to recycling and water supply systems, the avenues for projects are countless. And, with the mission reaching its critical phase and moving towards implementation, we will soon see a visible change in the way cities are governed and an increase in the integration of services, which were earlier working in silos.
Smart will soon be the new normal - it's time to get on board!