The strength of Kavaratti is tourism

The strength of Kavaratti is tourism

- Dr Atul Pandey, CEO, Kavaratti Smart City

The capital of the Union Territory of Lakshadweep, Kavaratti is well-known for its pristine white sand beaches and calm lagoons. This island city, with a population of just about 12,000 people, was selected in Round 4 of the Government’s smart cities mission.The vision of this popular tourist destination is to improve liveability and make it an environment-friendly, zero-carbon and climate change-resilient island city. Tourism is among the primary industries on the island with other major industries being fisheries and agriculture. “The city’s heritage is its natural beauty,” says Dr Atul Pandey, CEO, Kavaratti Smart City (KSCL) with pride, as he shares more on developments and opportunities in conversation with SERAPHINA D’SOUZA.

Tell us about the current initiatives under the smart cities mission.
The total project cost for KSCL is Rs 5.27 billion. Of this, Rs 1.80 billion is from convergence and PPP projects. The net fund sanctioned for the SPV to implement the projects is Rs 3.47 billion. There are 27 major projects sanctioned under the mission. These projects are being executed through line departments of Lakshadweep. So far, we have completed two projects of about Rs 11.5(9+2.5) million. One is the introduction of hydroponic cultivation, which was implemented by the Agricultural Department. The total cost of the project is Rs 2.5 million and it was completely funded by KSCL. The second project is a water harvesting project (Rs 9 million). Notably, Kavaratti is the only city selected under the mission that does not have a ULB. Andthe whole city of 4.22 sq km is covered under area-based development.

What current challenges is the city trying to overcome through smart city projects?
The purpose is to not disturb the environment and, at the same time, provide basic infrastructure and amenities such as water supply. We currently have an operational desalination plant and are planning to build two more—of 1 lakh litre per day and 1.5 lakh litre per day at Rs 1 billion and 0.45 billion respectively. Another project under AMRUT, already completed, is rainwater-harvesting tanks at Rs 9 million.

Connectivity is a major issue. So we are planning to have dedicated cruise ship connectivity with the mainland. Procurement of an all-weather ship itself costs about Rs 2.60 billion; this work will be implemented through the Port Shipping & Aviation Department.

Another area is Internet connectivity; we are having discussions with the Government to hire some more transponders from ISRO to provide Internet facilities. Similarly, we have several projects that are basic, but essential for the people.We are also in the process of planning an integrated command-and-control centre (ICCC) that will cover CCTVs, Internet of Things (IoT) and safety and surveillance-related works. Under pan-city, projects include smart meter for electricity/water; utility map-GIS mapping of water supply line and electricity line, transformer, overhead tanks, roads, etc.

Any DPRs or tenders to be floated for projects in coming months?
We are planning to float tenders for the public bicycle-sharing project at about Rs 70 lakh in two to three months. Other projects to be tendered by PWD include beachfront development, walkway, corridor beautification, native handicrafts, cultural facilities and coral museum, man-nature interaction display unique to the island and solar charging centres—at a total of Rs 50 million. Other new projects proposed include urban art with wall paintings, green waste management and bio-methanol plant, and exploring wave and tidal energy.

Brief us about projects that are already ongoing.
We currently have two ongoing projects. One is a multipurpose community hall being constructed at Rs 48 million. The other one is being undertaken by the Department of Environment and Forests for a solid wasteprocessing unit, smart collection, transportation and monitoring for solid waste management, alerting systems between administration, hospitals and solid waste facilities, at Rs 20 million.

What other core infrastructure projects are planned for the city?
We are working towards setting up a digital base framework for IT-enabled services and applications, including access nodes for high-speed connectivity with Wi-Fi and hotspot, at Rs 335 million. Further, as mentioned, we are also focusing on e-vehicles and bicycle sharing, dissemination plants and solar panels. Moving towards solar energy and e-vehicles solves our purpose of conserving and preserving the city. Our board has also decided to explore renewable energy for which we are undertaking two projects—the establishment of solar rooftop systems in public buildings under convergence at Rs 140 million, and solar charging centres at Rs 2.5 million.

In terms of transportation, we are working towards dedicated ship connectivity. The roads projects are coming up, which include the Development of Beach Road at Rs 52 million, Arterial road with proper signage and road marking at Rs 50 million, Junction Improvements and smart parking at Rs 10 million, promoting and utilising of Battery-operated vehicle for public mobilisation at Rs 10 million, and promoting the utilisation of smart bicycles for the public and tourists including a smart docking station at Rs 7 million.

What about efforts towards effective waste management?
Under convergence, door-to-door collection has already commenced, which covers the whole of Kavaratti. We have a Rs 20-million project under convergence that includes a solid waste processing unit, smart collection and transportation with necessary vehicles. Another project is a 1-mld centralised septage processing unit at Rs 72.5 million; and public bio toilets for Rs 1.5 million, for which we are awaiting the DPR. We are also planning to buy some infrastructure and construction machines to help dispose waste.

Any challenges faced in city development?
The main challenge is geographical isolation. Hence, a lot of private players are reluctant to work here because the cost becomes high and they are not friendly with the terrain, and thus don’t have supporting players. To overcome this, we have a close collaboration with government departments. The other challenge is the shortage of manpower or human resources. But we are expanding and hope to have a good team in a month or two.

What is one thing about the city you are really proud of?
Its natural beauty! The strength of Kavaratti is tourism. In fact, we are collaborating with the tourism department and have several projects under the PPP model. Further, we are also planning international quality centres in collaboration with the tourism department.

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