Setting an Example

The Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City) has been included in the Smart City Mission Statement and Guidelines as a model city in the greenfield category. GIFT City has deployed several advanced technologies across different sectors with a view to becoming future ready. The successful implementation of projects can serve as a model for other cities under the Smart Cities Mission (SCM). These cities can learn from the experience of GIFT City and deploy similar technologies to achieve efficiency in their operations.

About the city

The city has been conceptualised as a global financial and IT services hub located between Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar, the first of its kind in India. The aim is to reform the area that serves as a high quality, mixed-use district of residential, commercial and open-space facilities leveraging the land and real estate potential.

GIFT City is an integrated development on 886 acres of land with 62 million square feet of built-up area. Of the total built-up area, 42 million square feet is for commercial use, 14 million square feet for residential and the remaining 6 million square feet for social use. It will include office spaces, residential apartments, schools, hospitals, hotels, clubs, retail and various recreational facilities. The city consists of an exclusive domestic area, a multi-service special economic zone and an international financial services centre.

When fully developed, the total population density of the city is expected to be 15,000 people per square km, which translates into direct and indirect employment opportunities for 100,000 people.

The city is being developed on a public-private partnership basis. Gujarat International Finance Tec-City Company Limited (GIFTCL) has been incorporated as a joint venture between Gujarat Urban Development Company Limited and Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services for developing the city.

At present, construction work on the project is in full swing. In fact, one-fourth of the utilities have already been operationalised. The project is now expected to be completed by 2035, instead of the earlier deadline of 2026.

Replicable infrastructural developments

The city aspires to tap the country’s huge financial services potential, and this will require massive infrastructure with excellent planning, designing and engineering using the latest technologies. It has developed the vision of being a “digging-free city” by placing all the utilities in a tunnel across the city. For this, a 25 km long, 7.5 metre deep and 7.5 metre wide “utility tunnel” has been planned. Similar tunnels/trenches can be developed in other cities too. These tunnels will not only eliminate the need to excavate roads for future repair and maintenance, but can also accommodate all the utilities including power cables, raw water supply pipelines, a water treatment plant (WTP), a treated water supply pipeline from the WTP to various developments, chilled water supply from the district cooling pipe (DCP) to various developments and a return pipeline to the DCP, information and communications technology cables, automated waste collection pipelines, and fire hydrant water pipelines, among others. As of November 2019, 6 km of the tunnel work stands completed.

Since conventional waste management systems have a negative impact on the environment and are both cost and labour intensive, GIFT City has deployed automated waste collection (AWC) systems, wherein waste is thrown into a disposal chute and water is sucked through pipes at a speed of 90 kmph. Further, plasma technology has been deployed for wastewater treatment. It is being developed to minimise human intervention, space requirement and adverse impact on health. The AWC system has been deployed in line with the vision to make GIFT City a zero-discharge city.

In a bid to provide an uninterrupted, energy efficient and sustainable air-conditioning system to the occupants, a district cooling system has been planned as part of the city’s smart infrastructure. The system conserves up to 30 per cent energy as compared to traditional air-conditioning systems, reduces maintenance costs, improves air quality, and reduces noise, global warming, CO2 emissions and the heat island effect. Phase I of the district cooling system has been operational since March 2015. In addition, the city has been working to increase the share of renewable energy in the total energy mix. In order to make the WTPs and sewage treatment plants (STPs) efficient in terms of power requirement, variable frequency drives (VFDs) are being used for pumps/blowers to control the motor speed by varying the frequency of power being sent to the motor. A VFD not only minimises power costs, but also extends the life of the pump.

The GIFT City project also aims to ensure 99.99 per cent power reliability that translates to an outage of 5.3 minutes per annum. The development of a power control centre has been contemplated for this. The project also intends to develop leading-edge infrastructure, services and platforms, and offer financial enterprises a significant competitive advantage both regionally and globally. The central command and control centre of the city has been developed to monitor and manage the city’s infrastructure.

Currently, water infrastructure in many cities is marred by several issues including intermittent water supply, non-availability of water meters, cumbersome data collection methods, unavailability of water pipeline network, high percentage of unaccounted-for water, lack of awareness about the use of smart products, etc. The project also aims to provide drinkable water from all taps. The city has ensured perennial water supply through the construction of three barrages on the Sabarmati river. In addition, automated water meters have been introduced and leak detection techniques adopted for its water supply systems. Adopting similar techniques in other cities as well can go a long way in improving the state of water infrastructure in the country.

Though the government has introduced a number of programmes and schemes to improve the country’s sewerage network (such as the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation, the Namami Gange programme and the SCM), the segment is still marred by a number of issues. The existing sewerage infrastructure in most cities is characterised by obsolete and faulty pipeline networks, insufficient treatment capacity, suboptimal capacity utilisation, inability of STPs to cater to the peak load and treat the sewage for reuse, etc. The steps that can be taken to improve the sewerage infrastructure include the reuse of treated sewage to reduce the demand for fresh water; use of treated sewage for irrigation, flushing and heating and cooling systems; spreading awareness about the same; mapping the sewage collection pipeline and manholes on a geographic information system-based monitoring system; etc.

Besides infrastructure-related issues, getting timely approvals for the construction of projects remains one of the biggest challenges in a number of cities. In this regard, having a single-window clearance regime is the preferred choice for both developers and consumers. Such a clearance regime could go a long way in reducing the time required in construction and giving possession to the unit holders. The GIFT Urban Development Authority (GIFTUDA) and the GIFT Notified Committee has been constituted by the Gujarat government to act as a single-window clearance agency for all the projects being implemented under GIFT City.

Future ready

Infrastructure development is at the centre of the GIFT City project and is expected to play a pivotal role in supporting the business environment and quality of life in the city. A judicious combination of sound infrastructure development, use of state-of-the-art technology and adoption of global best practices in service delivery is being put in place in the city. All these factors are expected to provide an international standard of working and living to the residents.

Based on a presentation by Janki Jethi, Vice President, GIFT City, at a recent India Infrastructure conference

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