Smart city heads, experts discuss PPP, focus-activities
A webinar on March 3 discussed how to build smart and sustainable urban infrastructure delved into the challenges and successes of some of India’s smart cities, opportunities for urban infrastructure industries, especially on the PPP model, and the possibilities to replicate pilot projects across cities.
India’s Smart Cities Mission has been offering cities the opportunity to try out new things━data related, concrete, steel, or other. While there have been some decent projects on the ground, the pandemic has had its own impact on several cities' smart plans. Amidst challenges, cities continue to chart achievements and spur opportunities for the private sector.
A webinar on March 3 discussed how to build smart and sustainable urban infrastructure delved into the challenges and successes of some of India’s smart cities, opportunities for urban infrastructure industries, especially on the PPP model, and the possibilities to replicate pilot projects across cities. _________ India’s Smart Cities Mission has been offering cities the opportunity to try out new things━data related, concrete, steel, or other. While there have been some decent projects on the ground, the pandemic has had its own impact on several cities' smart plans. Amidst challenges, cities continue to chart achievements and spur opportunities for the private sector. Construction World and Swarajya magazines, as a part of their InfraNirbhar webinar series, recently organised a virtual-platform seminar on ‘Building Smart and Sustainable Urban Infrastructure’, which focused on how Indian cities are innovating their way into cities of the future. Sanjeev Sanyal, Principal Economic Advisor, Government of India, delivered the keynote. Pratap Padode, Editor-in-Chief, Construction World, moderated.Here is the full video of the webinar. Success stories For the first time in India, Chennai will be a city partner, which means that the World Bank and the state government will make big investments. This is due to the city’s success, not just in smart cities, but in other areas as well. “Be it water body restoration or bus buying, we are executing big projects in silos,” says Raj Cherubal, CEO, Chennai Smart City. In city partnership, the focus should be on scaling up. Structural changes are important in a city partnership more than the money or the project. Referring to successes, Cherubal emphasises on the example of the pedestrian plaza in Chennai. When in its planning stage, the project was not appreciated much. “But there has been a change, not only from the hometown point of view, but from a department, structural and even citizen point of view,” says the CEO. He also cites what he calls one of the toughest examples: The parking management systems. “It is bringing about discipline in the roads. If the ultimate objective is to get towards the buses and the metro-rail, you need the congestion charge, the parking fees, and a bit of discouraging of cars so that people shift to buses.” Glamorous projects such as the cycle sharing are also fairly popular in Chennai. The Agartala Smart City was among the three cities that received the award for excellence in urban innovation undertaken during Covid-19. “As a smart city, we started with managing our problems,” says Sandeep Mahatme, Director━Urban Development, Agartala. Drains were constructed and the integrated command control centres (ICCC) were brought in the smart city. Through smart components, the city has been monitoring floods plus immediate evacuation of flood waters. In urban transportation, ICCC has been functional, and through cameras, we have been monitoring traffic violations.” Waste and water management Reports reveal that waste management has been neglected, with the total number of projects in this area being fewer. However, Srikant Vishwanathan, CEO, Janaagraha, a non-governmental organisation that periodically conducts urban governance surveys, says, “We are seeing greater emphasis on both solid and liquid waste management, particularly with the current Union Budget and the 15th Finance Commission chart. In total, we expect to see about Rs 5 trillion outlays over the next five to seven years across solid and liquid waste management. This includes water supplies as well.” Considering a 10-year period from 2014 to 2025, Vishwanathan is hopeful that between water supply, solid and liquid waste management, some exciting partnerships will be seen at the state government level between academia, civil society, and governments. Water is a key area of specialty in the state of Maharashtra as well. Ramnath Sonawne, Secretary, Maharashtra Water Resource Regulatory Authority, says, “Out of the total water available, 15% is allocated to domestic use. Of this 15%, most of the water is used in urban areas. Basically, all places do not have water scarcity problems.” In Maharashtra, most cities have a good network for water distribution, at least treatment of water and distribution of water. When Sonawne studied the water problem of all the 100 smart cities in India, he realised that 94 cities have adequate water resources available. “The problem is that they have inadequate treatment facilities and inadequate distribution networks,” he says. “About six cities face water scarcity.” The problem lies in water management resources. The Government of Maharashtra’s Supply and Sanitation Department and the Urban Development Department takes care of implementation of the AMRUT mission. The state should be able to ensure that across cities, 100% distribution network is made available, and the equitable distribution of water is done. Early movers in e-buses In terms of transportation, Pune has seen a dramatic change over the last decade. “The new concept of e-buses has been largely adopted. We had the Smart City to initially bank upon where our first 150 electric buses came from in February 2019,” says Rajendra Jagtap, Chairman & Managing Director, Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal. The system is energy-efficient and hence environment-friendly. Jagtap, adds, “In phase two, we have ordered for an additional 150 buses and are getting an additional 350 buses from the corporation’s side.” By December 2021, Pune will have the largest fleet of electric buses━650 of them━in India. The PPP opportunity Cities have been undertaking a herd of projects on the public-private partnership (PPP) model. Sharing a developer perspective, S Kirupa Shankar, Head━Safe & Smart Segment, Smart World Communications, L&T, says, “For smart cities, we are still evaluating PPP.” As on date, the company has completed about 23 smart cities and 23 command control centers, but the execution mode has been EPC. Shankar adds, “In the last one year, phenomenal interest has been developed by the administration as well as the police into the smart city. The command control center became a war room for the collector, the commissioner and also the superintendent of police and the health department. The video surveillance camera was used to avoid war crowding during lockdown.” In quite a few cases, the company used this opportunity to make certain applications. One such application has been the AI based vehicle monitoring system, wherein cameras were installed into the mobile vehicles to monitor various zones for implementation of Covid during lockdown. An application was also developed to monitor people’s real time movement using their mobile. Evidently, while some private players are still evaluating the success of PPP, smart cities are thriving on opportunities. “We are going to multiply the Plaza pedestrian project into a 110 km mega street,” says Cherubal. “It’s a massive and complicated construction work involving not only the footpath job, but an integration of utilities, parking management, cameras, and IoT devices.” Chennai is also one of the first cities to do sewerage recycling for industries. The city recycles every drop and now there are discussions in terms of analytics, artificial intelligence, drones, and what to do with data. The city is looking for companies━start-ups to mature ones━to support this project. In Maharashtra, opportunities lie in the area of water and wastewater management, says Dr Sonawne. He shares the example of Nagpur city: “24x7 water supply scheme has been implemented and even wastewater is treated and supplied to MAHAGENCO. Cities are adopting the Nagpur model, and even in case of treatment of wastewater, recycle and reuse, this model is being replicated.” The state government of Maharashtra has also issued a mandate to local bodies to treat 100% wastewater, and at least reuse 30% of the recycled water within the city. Additionally, opportunities are available in the area of solid waste management. The state of Tripura has been ensuring investment flows in the urban sector. Dr Mahatme confirms, “The state has received Rs 2 billion of special grant from the 15 finance commission for the development of the ULBs that are located in the seven district headquarters. Around Rs 18 billion ADB loan has been received from the Ministry of Finance, which is in the final stages. This is for strengthening the infrastructure in 20 ULBs including roads, sewerage, storm water drainage, and streetlights.” Money is going to flow into the state for solid waste management as well. This plus urban mobility, rapid transit system, and Jal Jeevan mission are among the several opportunities for the private sector. Pune has been offering opportunities for the private sector in the areas of transportation. Jagtap says, “The vehicles are brought, run, fueled and maintained by the private player, and we pay him on the basis of per kilometre.” This contract has been applicable to all the e-buses and CNG buses that the city procured last year. Replicating success stories Cities under the Smart Cities Mission have been evidently reinventing the wheel. Over the last 20 years, dozens of pilot projects have been successfully initiated, and have remained pilots. As Vishwanathan mentions, “Our cities, or urban India, is a graveyard of pilots.” He calls it “lack of institutional memory,” and says that taking projects from pilot to scale is a long process. There is a revolving door of senior officers who come and go from the municipality, not just at the commissioner level, but also one level below that. “Also, there should be some active facilitation and duration that is required to convert what is a best practice in a particular place to a practice in some other place,” he says. There is a need for a marketplace of ideas and conversion of those into practice. Dr Sonawne clearly disagrees with the view that frequent transfers are the only reason for the mismanagement in urban areas. He says, “What we have failed in is proper planning. We have not created systems.” He elaborates on the need for a mandate to set the system, wherein who is working on it should be immaterial. He also mentions the need to provide adequate financial resources and trained manpower, which is capable of implementing what is planned. If cities are to look at model contracts, is this something that requires engineering right from the start? Shankar wishes that his customers knew what they exactly want. While he refers to this as a bigger challenge when he takes on a contract, he says, “We started the Smart World Communication business around four and a half years back. Of course, in the last two to two and a half years, a lot of clarity has been built in, but in certain cities you find that the police are the customer, or it is the civil administration. Unfortunately, what lacks is clarity on the overall requirement, which practically delays the project.” What do cities need? In conclusion, there is a need to create an outcome report that helps cities identify what should be done and what should not be done to avoid wasting resources. Also, a major challenge lies in conceptualising projects for PPP, which needs to be addressed. And, cities should be open to referring to success stories within the country and applying it for ensured success. A report by Shriyal SethumadhavanImage: A “Pedestrian Plaza” in Chennai smart city.Also read: Sanjeev Sanyal: Invest more in infra, not in city master plans Also read: Tamil Nadu tops in smart city fund use