Moving Apace: Project execution picks up under the Smart Cities Mission

Project execution picks up under the Smart Cities Mission

The journey of the Smart Cities Mission (SCM) has faced hiccups and delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic and its associated implications. While the mission was la­un­ched in 2015 with an envisaged completion time of five years, the deadline for implementation has now been revised to 2023.

The 100 selected cities have been successful in establishing their Smart City Advisory Forum. They will receive financial support of Rs 480 billion from the central government over the course of the mission, which is an average of Rs 1 billion per city per year, with an equal am­ount to be contributed by the respective sta­te governments and urban local bodies. As on July 8, 2022, the government had released Rs 307.51 billion in funds, of which 90 per cent has been utilised by the states. A total of 7,822 projects worth Rs 1,906.6 billion have been tendered while work orders have been issued for 7,649 projects worth Rs 1,809.96 billion, and 4,085 projects worth Rs 669.12 billion ha­ve been completed.

A look at the key highlights of the mission over the past year…

  • Performance of top seven states: The top performing states with the highest number of completed projects are Karnataka with 66 per cent projects completed followed by Guj­a­rat (62 per cent), Rajasthan (61 per cent), Madh­ya Pradesh (57 per cent), Uttar Pra­desh (54 per cent), Tamil Nadu (45 per cent) and Ch­hat­tisgarh (40 per cent).
  • GIFT city setting an example for smart cities: Gujarat International Finance Tec (GIFT) City in Ahmedabad is India’s first operational sm­art city and is recognised as a model for gr­e­en­field development. It is an upcoming fin­ancial and IT services hub with state-of-the-art infrastructure encompassing all basic ur­ban elements. Recently, on July 29, 2022, the India International Bullion Exchange, In­dia’s maiden international finance service centre (IFSC), was inaugurated in the city to re­vamp the overseas investment framework. As per industry experts, this initiative will benefit both financial and non-financial services players to make overseas investments in the In­dian IFSC and develop new lines of bu­si­ness. In August 2022, the IFSC also la­un­­ched a fleet of electric buses and e-bikes by Charter Speed Limited to address the dema­nd for public transportation in the city and support plans for the expansion of e-mobility to mass transit.

  • Establishment of ICCCs for seamless service provision: As of March 2022, 80 smart cities have been operationalised with integrated command and control centres (ICCCs), which assist in monitoring and improve efficiency in areas such as traffic management, so­lid wa­ste management and water distributi­on management. The Madhya Pradesh Ur­b­an Ad­ministration and Development Depar­t­ment has planned a common cloud-based data centre for smart cities and an ICCC at each of its seven smart cities.
  • Tapping the potential of 5G-enabled street utilities: There is significant scope for 5G sm­all cell deployment on smart poles, road signages, bus stops, traffic signal poles, etc. The Bhopal Smart City has emerged as a front ru­n­ner in this space with a pilot project for 5G speed trials at four locations by Vodafone Idea and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. Tests for the same have also been co­nducted at 11 locations in the city and similar cells have been deployed in other cities (Delhi, Be­n­galuru, Kandla) by other telcos such as Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and BSNL.
  • Installation of flood sensors in Kalyan-Dombivli Smart City: Flood control and storm water drainage are being implemented as a single project or as a component of a larger project in the smart cities of Ma­h­a­­rashtra. As of June 2022, the Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC) had address­ed the issue and installed flood control sens­ors at 10 locations in its jurisdiction. These lo­cations are lin­k­ed to the Smart City Ope­ration Centre of KDMC. The sensors wo­uld help in alerting the control room if the water reaches an alarming level during heavy rains.
  • NUDM facilitates online public services access: In June 2022, the Lucknow state government signed an Memorandum of Under­standing (MoU) with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) to make its public services available online. The MoU was to en­able access to of various facilities online such as payment of water and sewerage charges, issuance of birth and death certi­ficates, and property tax assessment and payment under the National Urban Digital Mis­s­ion. The mission is an open source digital plat­form, which creates a shared digital infrastructure for the cities to enable more streamlined and transparent delivery of public services.
  • Smart solutions for water and waste management: In August 2021, a supervisory con­trol and data acquisition (SCADA) system was la­unched for tertiary treated water monitoring under the SCM. Chandigarh un­dertook this project to align with its sustainable deve­lop­ment efforts. The project, bearing a cost of Rs 40.4 million, is still under implementation. It will monitor the quantity and quality of recycled water to save water reso­ur­ces that are used for irrigation purposes in the city. Nag­pur, Mum­bai, Pune, De­h­radun, Ahmeda­b­ad, Nashik, Delhi, Ben­galuru and Naya Rai­pur have also implemented the system. The lack of automatic monitoring re­sults in non-equitable distribution of tertiary treated water in the city. Application of the SCADA system wou­ld be helpful in monitoring residual minerals, pH levels and residual chlorine with the help of various IoT sensors and analysis eq­uip­me­nt. Further, to impro­ve its waste mana­geme­nt efficiency, the Bhopal Smart City ad­opted a redevelopment mo­del. The project will cost Rs 34.4 billion and inclu­des the construction of a biome­th­anation plant with a capacity to treat 5 to­nnes of was­te to generate gas and electricity. The 435 vehicles de­p­loyed for collection and segregation of dry and wet waste re­po­rt at an au­to­mated tra­ns­fer station eq­uip­ped with radio frequency id­entification and automatic number plate recognition-based technology.

While all the smart cities are moving forward at varying speeds, a large population is still struggling to get basic urban amenities. As per the Central Pollution Control Board re­port in 2013, a total of 53,898 million litres per day of se­wage is generated by urban centres, of whi­ch only 36.8 per cent gets treated and the untreated water is disposed of as refuse. Per capita water availability in India is ex­pected to touch 1,341 cubic meter (cum) by 2025 and 1,140 cum by 2050, which, as per the Composite Water Ma­na­gement Index, 2019 developed by NITI Aayog, will be close to the threshold for water scarcity of 1,000 cum per capita.

The objective of smart cities is to create technology and infrastructure while adhering to the principles of sustainability. This would be possible when these projects are led with sm­art solutions responsive to the local context. There is a need for sustainable innovatio­ns such as smart meters for monitoring the quality of water and its distribution, conversion of waste to fuel and compost, treatment of wa­s­tewater from industries and households for reuse, smart mobility, smart energy and go­v­ernance. Coop­eration among multiple stakeholders can help bridge the gap in resource identification and usage while creating transformational strategies.

To achieve this, it is important to feed the economic growth through private sector participation and investments in innovative solutions, as stressed upon by the MoHUA. At present, the SCM has witnessed the completion of 228 public-private partnership projects worth Rs 220 billion across more than 60 cities while there is further scope for 160 such projects worth Rs 150 billion.