Water and waste management initiatives form a key component of the Smart Cities Mission (SCM). These initiatives focus on providing adequate water supply, recycling and reusing wastewater, rainwater harvesting, management of solid waste, etc. In order to better manage the existing infrastructure such as water distribution networks and streamline the waste collection process, smart cities are also incorporating technologies such as smart meters, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, smart bins and vehicle tracking systems into their day-to-day operations. These solutions help in reducing the non-revenue water (NRW) levels, identifying leaks and undertaking predictive maintenance. Besides, digital solutions in the waste management sector also help in route planning for garbage collection and monitoring the waste generation and collection levels.
Smart solutions and their applications
Smart cities are increasingly relying on geographic information systems (GIS) to improve water supply system efficiency. GIS is a computer-based tool that helps in the collection, storage, processing, analysis and electronic presentation of spatial data in the form of digitised images of aerial views or published maps. Various cities have deployed GIS technology to ensure sustainable operation and maintenance of their current and future water supply and sewerage assets. The implementation of the project in Varanasi has allowed the city corporation to access comprehensive details of the water connections and supply and wastewater resources on a digital map-based online system, allowing all city civic services and planning departments to work more effectively and efficiently. Cyient, global provider of engineering, manufacturing, geospatial, networks, and operations management services to global industry leaders, was selected as a consultant in 2018 to develop the GIS for Varanasi.
Another key technological solution being adopted under the mission is SCADA. A SCADA system enables remote monitoring of a water supply distribution system and its various process parameters such as water quality (pH, turbidity and residual chlorine), process variables (flow level and pressure) and control elements (electric actuators for valves). All the data and process variables are assimilated at the SCADA-based master control station and analysed. This helps in managing the issues of inequitable water distribution and reduces the number of complaints. The Ahmedabad Smart City has installed a SCADA system for real-time monitoring of three water treatment plants and 148 water distribution stations. The solution has helped the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) save Rs 60 million annually. Besides, it has also helped in utilising 23 million litres per day (mld) of water that was earlier being wasted. The project has been implemented by Chetas Control Systems Private Limited, Pune.
A number of utilities are also taking up projects to replace conventional meters with smart metering solutions. Smart meters enable utilities to accurately measure the quantity of water being supplied to each consumer and improve revenues. With respect to consumers, automatic meter reading systems ensure transparency by eliminating faulty meter readings. The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) is working to install over 275,000 SensusiPERL smart water meters to monitor, measure and manage activity across its network. The technology will help the corporation not only in ensuring continuous water supply but also in reducing its NRW by half in the course of three years. Sensus, a Xylem brand, was selected in 2018 as Larsen & Toubro’s technology partner to ensure the successful implementation of this project.
Waste-to-energy (WtE) plants have gained traction as an effective way of dealing with waste as they serve the dual purpose of eliminating the discarded waste as well as generating energy from it. WtE plants can be set up within a span of six months at existing landfill sites as these plants do not require a green clearance. According to experts, about 100 tonnes of municipal waste can generate 7-8 MW of energy. The Jabalpur Smart City operates a WtE plant at Kathonda for the disposal of municipal solid waste for the 79 wards of the Jabalpur Municipal Corporation. It is an award-winning project that deploys Hitachi Zosen’s customised thermal waste processing solution. The plant generates 11.5 MW of energy by recycling 600 tonnes of municipal solid waste per day and reducing over 37,000 tonnes of carbon emissions for Jabalpur annually. The plant was set up by EsselInfraprojects Limited.
Another smart solution to deal with overflowing garbage bins in cities is the deployment of smart bins. These bins have sensors that send out a signal to contractors/corporations once garbage is filled to the brim so as to ensure timely clearance. Under the SCM, the Bhopal Municipal Corporation has installed smart sensors in 150 bins in the city so far. The global positioning system (GPS)-enabled sensors send out a signal to officials at the waste control monitoring room once the garbage bin is filled completely. Further, geotagging all garbage bins and collection points helps keep a close check on the collection process. The Agra Nagar Nigam has decided to streamline solid waste management by installing radio frequency identification (RFID) tags at 99,450 houses in 51 wards. As sanitary workers collect waste from the house and scan the RFID barcode installed at the house, the command and control centre of the Agra Smart City office receives an automatic alert.
GPS-based vehicle tracking plays an important role in optimising transportation of garbage. Under this system, all transportation vehicles of a corporation are equipped with a surveillance system that provides real-time tracking solutions. This leads to improvement in vehicle productivity. The PMC has installed a GPS-based vehicle tracking management system for waste collection vehicles. The key features of the system include real-time monitoring of vehicles, and alerts for overspeeding, excess stoppage time and excess fuel used, as well as a web-enabled live map with playback history and route replay.
Further, civic bodies such as the AMC, the Vijayawada Municipal Corporation, the Surat Municipal Corporation and the PMC have also come up with mobile applications to provide effective redressal of customer complaints. This has led to improvements in revenue collection for the corporations. The AMC Seva (Ahmedabad 311) app encourages citizens, to communicate directly with their community leaders. The app provides services such as online payments of water bills, applying for licences online, etc. This app also allows users to report issues such as waterlogging in their areas, damaged roads, and lack of dustbins. Further, Swachh Delhi is another such initiative by the Delhi government and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi to report overflowing garbage dumps across the city.
The way forward
There are a number of hindrances in the efficient implementation of smart water and waste management projects under the mission. Lack of funding is a major impediment to timely project execution. Further, the funds offered by the government in the form of grants comprise a very small part of what the cities actually need. Therefore, the cities need to access funds from other sources such as through public-private partnerships, municipal bonds, or loans from bilateral and multilateral agencies. For instance, the PMC has raised funds through municipal bonds for the implementation of a 24×7 water supply project, an initiative under the SCM.
The absence of reliable and accurate data with urban local bodies (ULBs) further affects structuring of projects. Most ULBs do not possess up-to-date information on waste collection, transportation, treatment, disposal and infrastructure facilities in their areas. This makes it nearly impossible to accurately determine the current service backlog and the future requirements. Unreliable data also dampens investor interest in the sector. It is important to design contracts that ensure fair risk distribution with clearly defined responsibilities for the parties involved in order to attract private sector interest. Proper planning, timely creation of capacity, amendments in the existing policies and close coordination among the different levels of government will go a long way in ensuring timely completion of projects.