Smartening Up

Intelligent solutions to help cities combat Covid-19

Urban local bodies (ULBs) have successfully provided uninterrupted services during the lockdown period due to the automation of services, installation of integrated command and control centres (ICCCs) and CCTV cameras, and the deployment of smart water and waste management solutions under the centre’s flagship programme, the Smart Cities Mission (SCM). The ICCCs developed under the mission are being used for real-time surveillance and monitoring of Covid-19-affected districts across the country. Many states have converted them into war rooms for real-time data monitoring and tracking the status of Covid-19 positive cases. The special purpose vehicles implementing the projects under the mission have now resumed implementation work with due attention to physical distancing norms. Indian Infrastructure presents views of heads of select smart cities on the impact of Covid-19 on the mission’s performance…

What has been the progress under the SCM so far?

Chaitanya Y. Bhatt

Surat Smart City Limited (SSCL) has planned projects worth over Rs 20 billion for area-based development (ABD) under the mission. Of the 78 projects planned, it has completed 58 projects while 19 are ongoing. Besides, one project for IT infrastructure development for the ICCC is currently under tendering. SSCL plans to use the ICCC as an emergency response centre in the city. It has its own open data portal and has already implemented an intelligent transport management system (ITMS) and an automatic fare collection system and has developed its control and command centre. Besides, it has installed over 3,000 cameras under the mission.

Dr Garima Mittal

The key projects undertaken by Faridabad Smart City Limited (FSCL) include the revival of Badkal lake, the development of smart roads, and the setting up of an ICCC. So far, about 50 per cent of the project implementation has taken place in the city. FSCL is in the process of finalising a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system for water and sewerage projects under Phase I of the mission. Further, 700 smart street lights are being installed on the smart roads, with features such as individual dimming systems and yellow to white light transition as a part of the smart road projects. Smart water and sewerage projects are also being undertaken by FSCL under the ABD component of the mission. Under this component, it has conducted flow studies of water for the smart road projects and tried to streamline the already existing water lines. On the sewerage management front, it is setting up a 10 million litres per day sewage treatment plant for Badkal lake.

Dr Prashant Narnaware

The City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra (CIDCO) has already operationalised a CCTV-based city surveillance project in the commissionerate area. Currently, it is in consultations to expand the project to non-commissionerate areas as well. In the Navi Mumbai Airport Influence Notified Area (NAINA), CIDCO has created a plan wherein architects apply and submit designs online, maintaining transparency in the process. As a planning body, CIDCO plans to come up with a similar online system for issuing zoning certificates. It has plans to come up with several connectivity projects in Navi Mumbai such as the Navi Mumbai airport and metro. It is also constructing 125,000 houses, of which 9,000 have already been built under the low-cost housing component.

Shashi Ranjan

Ranchi Smart City Corporation Limited (RSCCL), has already completed eight projects under the mission. Besides, there are 19 ABD projects at various stages of execution and planning at present. These projects involve water supply and reuse of recycled water, street lighting, a solid waste management system, and a public bicycle sharing system. RSCCL has also prepared a master plan for greenfield ABD of 656 acres that focuses on developing a centre for knowledge excellence. The design of the master plan incorporates transit-oriented development along the main corridor ensuring compact development. Further, the corporation will also develop a bus rapid transit or light rail transit corridor and transit hubs, and a command, control and communication centre that focuses on an efficiently managed traffic and transportation system along with robust IT connectivity, carbon-free zones, safety and security for citizens, and riverfront and green area development.

What has been the impact of Covid-19 on the SCM? What has been the response to the pandemic?

Chaitanya Y. Bhatt

SSCL is actively taking steps to deal with the ongoing pandemic. Some of the key initiatives taken by the special purpose vehicle include the development of the SMC Covid-19 Tracker, a tracker system which includes a web portal and mobile application. The application tracks people with a history of foreign or interstate travel and those who have come in direct contact with people who have tested positive for Covid-19. SSCL has also converted parking areas of various hospitals into Covid-19 care centres to meet the bed requirements for the increasing number of cases.

Dr Garima Mittal

FSCL has leveraged technology to ensure smooth functioning via online meetings and training during the pandemic. It uses artificial intelligence for monitoring purposes such as receiving alerts related to the number of people gathered at a place. It now plans to introduce the technology for administrative purposes. Under its ICCC, FSCL has installed CCTV cameras that are being used to monitor the lockdown. The corporation’s prime focus is on addressing the mismatches in information on various portals as well as setting up a bed management dashboard. There have been instances of a data mismatch between the state portal and the Indian Council of Medical Research portal. So, FSCL is trying to leverage technology to solve this issue. Besides, the real-time bed management dashboard will help in analysing the data for decision making and guide the movement of ambulances across the city. FSCL has also tied up with the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad to connect with resident welfare associations to increase awareness about the ongoing pandemic, and give practical guidelines and solutions that can implemented in the respective areas.

Dr Prashant Narnaware

CIDCO successfully resumed operations within 15 days of the lockdown through web sessions to conduct online reviews. However, it has been unable to resume on-ground implementation of 50 per cent of the projects. It has asked the concessionaires and contractors to restart the big projects such as airport development, as the Maharashtra government has issued a circular which allows contractors to continue construction work if the workers are residing close to execution sites and are provided with all the requisite amenities. As a result, work has resumed while maintaining distancing norms and with regular health check-ups. CIDCO has its own health department which takes care of workers who test Covid-19 positive. Besides, special seats have been reserved for CIDCO workers in various quarantine centres.

Shashi Ranjan

The outbreak of Covid-19 has resulted in a loss of time for project implementation. There has been a shortage of labour and raw materials. However, a phased reopening of the economy along with regular sanitisation of the sites, providing masks to labourers, along with regular screening is expected to facilitate growth. Restarting works under the mission is expected to take several months. One of the major projects of the Ranchi smart city that has been delayed due to the lockdown is its ITMS. It is expected to take at least a year for RSCCL to take up new projects. First it will have to review its priorities and divert its efforts from institutional development to sectors that need increased focus. RSCCL will focus on creating opportunities to attract greater investments and participation from investors. It aims to use learnings from other smart cities in dealing with the pandemic such as the model Covid-19 war room at Bengaluru (which is Karnataka’s Covid-19 data dashboard) and the tele-video consultation facility launched by Agra Smart City Limited.

What is the outlook for the SCM based on the current state of affairs? What will be the key priority areas in the post-Covid world?

Chaitanya Y. Bhatt

Going forward, SSCL has plans to run electric buses in Surat as the city’s bus rapid transit system is already operational. The ITMS has led to the success of the BRTS project, boosting ridership and bus efficiency. Besides, in a major development, SSCL has planned a metro project for the city, for which the detailed project report has already been sanctioned.

Dr Garima Mittal

The implementing agency has decided to rethink and revise its plans such as the bus service plan due to Covid-19. Amongst the medium-term projects, it has selected basic IT-based infrastructure projects such as water SCADA and sewerage SCADA. It also plans to integrate data on automatic challans and traffic signalling, water SCADA and sewerage SCADA into the ICCCs. Further, under the long-term projects, FSCL plans to install its own optic fibre network, inspired by the Gurugram model.

Dr Prashant Narnaware

Under green initiatives, CIDCO plans to encourage the utilisation of solar energy by giving credits to housing societies for putting up solar panels. It has made rainwater harvesting compulsory for all buildings. It is now planning to come up with timers for street lights to save energy. Besides, it has plans to implement a town planning scheme in 25 villages of NAINA and is gradually adopting automation in the process. Of these, it has successfully completed 11 schemes. CIDCO has planned a non-aero city near Navi Mumbai airport along the lines of the New Delhi non-aero city. CIDCO also has plans to add more terminals to the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust to increase freight handling capacity.

Shashi Ranjan

In order to ensure uninterrupted works, implementing agencies will have to efficiently undertake resource planning for all construction activities, mobilise construction workers and ensure better supply chain management. They should conduct a city-wise surveillance through command and control centres and continuously monitor the health of workers and maintain all distancing norms with the introduction of multiple shifts. Cities should work towards integrating GIS-based mapping with ICCCs, as it is crucial for monitoring during epidemics. This must be taken up on a war footing by all the cities to help manage all urban services across a city. Going forward, implementing agencies should chalk out a plan in a time-bound manner to minimise the impact of Covid-19 and ensure the viability and sustainability of projects in the changed environment.

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