Interview with Sanjay Kumar

“BSCDCL has been a pioneer in rolling out many unique, innovative and impactful projects”

The Smart Cities Mission (SCM) aims to develop cities that apply smart solutions to provide core infrastructure services and give their citizens a better quality of life. Bhopal is one of 20 “lighthouse” cities that can serve as a role model for other cities in the country. In a recent interview with Indian Infrastructure, Sanjay Kumar, chief executive officer, Bhopal Smart City Development Corporation Limited (BSCDCL), shares his views on the progress of the Bhopal smart city, issues and challenges in project implementation and the corporation’s future plans…

What has been the progress in the implementation of area-based development (ABD) and pan-city projects?

After the formation of BSCDCL, the primary focus was on taking innovative pan-city initiatives. Bhopal was a pioneer amongst other smart cities in the country in rolling out unique and impactful projects such as public bike sharing (PBS), Bhopal Plus (one city, one app), an integrated traffic management system (ITMS), an integrated command and control centre (ICCC), Mayor Express (a smart handyman service), smart poles and intelligent street lighting, smart maps, smart education and digital door numbering. So far, most of the pan-city initiatives that had been proposed in the smart city proposal have been implemented.

The city is currently focusing on ABD, for which an area of approximately 350 acres has been identified. The key components of ABD that are currently under implementation are government housing (over 3,000 units), smart roads, a commercial complex and a green township.

How is Bhopal sourcing funds under the SCM?

Our proposal size is nearly Rs 35 billion. BSCDCL will receive a cumulative amount of Rs 10 billion from the central government and the Madhya Pradesh government on a year-to-year basis for a period of five years (Rs 2 billion each year). Besides, BSCDCL will also have to generate funds to undertake more projects in the future. Hence, public-private partnership (PPP) projects are of prime importance in order for the corporation to be financially sustainable.

A pan-city project that has taken off is the smart poles and intelligent street lighting project. Being implemented on a PPP basis, it has a capital expenditure requirement of Rs 3.9 billion and an operating expenditure requirement of Rs 3 billion. BSCDCL has engaged Bharti Infratel and Ericsson as solution providers for the deployment of smart poles in the city. The contract cost is Rs 6.9 billion. The city corporation also plans to generate additional funds of Rs 1 billion through convergence with the Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC). Further, it plans to monetise the area under ABD located in the heart of the city to generate more funds.

What are some of the marquee projects being undertaken under the Bhopal smart city?

BSCDCL has been a pioneer in rolling out many unique, innovative and impactful projects in the smart city space in the country. Some of our marquee projects are:

  • Integrated traffic management system: The system provides greater information to the authorities to proactively manage ongoing traffic situations, enhance traffic discipline and enforce traffic laws. It has reduced the overall traffic burden on roads and has improved productivity levels by enhancing the reliability of travel for citizens and local businesses.
  • Integrated control and command centre: It is an integrated common platform to access live city feeds of various city functions and generate appropriate commands from a unified platform. All the information collected is analysed for better planning of the smart cities using the integrated analytical layer/business intelligence engine. The insights/trends are helpful in managing incidents across states and individual cities for better planning for the development and delivery of smart city projects.
  • Bhopal Plus: The application has been envisioned as a one-stop solution for all kinds of citizen requirements. It serves as a single platform for citizens to engage with the government, avail of services, resolve issues, and learn about governance schemes, projects and initiatives.

The four main components of the proposed application are a collaboration platform (for interaction between the government and citizens through discussion, polls, blogs, etc.), grievance redressal, citizen services (business to consumers and government to citizen) and a public dashboard.

What are the key projects being developed on a PPP basis in Bhopal?

The projects being developed on a PPP basis are the smart poles and intelligent street lights project (Rs 6.9 billion) and a smart PBS project (Rs 29.5 million).

What are the key steps being taken to raise public awareness about projects being developed in the Bhopal smart city? How has the public acceptance of these projects been?

BSCDCL rolled out the Bhopal Plus project as a citywide application for the city. The collaboration platform of the application is an integral component for engaging with citizens and obtaining their feedback through polls, surveys, ideation, etc. There is a provision to send alerts, reminders, etc. to the users in the form of push notifications.

In addition, BSCDCL leverages its Twitter and Facebook accounts to constantly engage with citizens, to obtain their feedback and keep them informed about all the latest developments in the city. Other initiatives that have been organised by BSCDCL to raise public awareness are:

  • Heritage walk: As many as 1,000 architecture and engineering students as well as other citizens went for a 5 km heritage walk – My Culture My Bhopal – to explore the city’s historical monuments on December 25, 2018.
  • Hackathon: BSCDCL organised a hackathon in partnership with Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and this has been instrumental in encouraging entrepreneurship among the youth. It was organised to shortlist start-ups, which showcased solutions to solve problems in the city using technology, for BSCDCL’s in-cubation centre. It included young talent across educational institutes and corporates.
  • Startup Conclave: The Startup Conclave was held on September 29, 2018 at the B-NEST Incubation Center, Bhopal. The event served as an effective platform for young entrepreneurs, students and other players from the start-up ecosystem to exchange their views with the Madhya Pradesh government and BSCDCL on how to collectively make the state the next big start-up hub of the country.
  • Apex Conference: BSCDCL organised the first Apex Conference for the chief executive officers of various smart cities. The conference aimed to provide a single platform for convergence of best practices in projects under the SCM across the country. It was intended to help city leaders use collective learning to accelerate the progress of work.

Which are the companies partnering with Bhopal under the B-Nest incubator? Are any key sectors being targeted for the incubator?

In the seven months of operation, B-Nest has gained a lot of traction. The B-Nest Foundation has signed several MoUs with companies such as PricewaterhouseCoopers, 3M, Paytm, Amazon Web Services, Esri India Technologies Limited and Beehive. These MoUs are proving to be game changers  for all on-board start-ups. As an incubator, B-Nest is domain agnostic. However, the majority of the start-ups that are a part of B-Nest are agro-tech, automation and waste management companies.

What are the key issues and challenges being faced during project implementation?

There are various challenges and issues being faced during project implementation. These relate to getting site clearances and approvals from the government for land, road digging, etc., receiving interdepartmental clearances, building capacity of stakeholders, hiring a suitable workforce, raising funds and identifying means of making projects sustainable.

What are the key priorities for 2019?

During the year, BSCDCL will be primarily focusing on ABD-related projects including electricity distribution and supply management for the ABD area, government housing (Phase I), Boulevard Street (Phase I), construction of smart roads, setting up of a haat, etc. Other pan-city initiatives which are scheduled to be completed during the year are the development of smart schools, water supervisory control and data acquisition systems, and a digital door numbering project for the entire city, smart parks, an arch bridge and the installation of underground waste bins.

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