Chennai Betting Big on Smart Roads for Smart City

“Tamil Nadu government already notified Chennai Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (CUMTA), to co-ordinate with public transportation modes and the goal is to move to higher percentage of population adopting it. Basically, for a life in an advanced country the road needs to be designed as one package, inclusive of concerns of citizens across all levels. we emphasize that the look and feel of the roads are to ensure comfort for all both pedestrians and wheel-chair bound”, asserted an optimistic Raj Cherubal, CEO, Chennai Smart City Limited. In a conversation with Poulami Chakraborty, BW SmartCities World, he unveils the SPV’s plans to groom Chennai as a city par excellence.

In a recent bid, Chennai Corporation is to tap solar energy which is to save much on electricity bills. What was the idea behind this move? Are there any plans to adopt this for city administration?

This landmark initiative is obvious to save on the cost incurred on electricity bill by the civic body, besides impacting the pollution level in the city, thus contributing to the greater cause. About 662 government buildings which includes government offices, schools and hospitals which together are expected to generate about 3.06 MW of electricity are expected to be covered under this project. Though we had plans for 5 MW, however, at this moment we are starting with a 3 MW project in five packages, and the idea is to scale this in different models. As this has been a discovery process for us and lot of confusions prevailed regarding how to go about it to achieve scale was not very clear to us. Though the concept appeared very simple but was not very simple because of regulatory issues, co-ordination issues, targeting the right buildings for implementation of this project and so on.

However, we are able to crack the discovery process and have started implementing it, hoping the savings will be pretty much impressive both on the electricity bills as well as on the environment by cutting on the pollution.

Two of T-Nagar Roads are due for a safer and spacious facelift. What key features are being included for this urban makeover program? What timeline is set for this project? Are there any plans to involve sustainable methods of development for such projects? What plans are you having for implementing similar kind of projects in other parts of the city?

Basically, for a life in an advanced country the road needs to be designed as one package. Today, when road designing is done, carriage way is done separately, foot-paths are done separately, and tree is done separately. Very rarely, do we redesign the entire road to accommodate the various stakeholders including pedestrian, parking, and traffic movement and so on. So in these two roads all these features are taken into account. Carriageway is fix so that traffic flow is smoother and disciplined. Also, we are implementing a very advanced parking management system based on camera and electronic payment and other key features, which enables users to figure out which slot is available in GT Road and TNagar Areas, nearest to one’s destination. Under the foot-path, there will be storm water drain, which already exists. Additionally, we are giving pipe based ducting for electricity with OSR cables, which enables digging the roads whenever there is any fault, hassle freely.

Also we emphasize that the look and feel of the roads are to ensure comfort for all both pedestrians and wheel-chair bound. Also, these being industrial and residential areas, a major focus remains on landscaping to improve the look and feel of the roads.  With the preliminary inspection in process at the moment, this project is to be completed in 9 months.

In the Pedestrian Plaza project, for example, we are actually adding tall trees 10 feet and 20 feet trees to wherever there are needs. Wherever there will be gap, we will be filling in with trees. In our parks and some of the other smart roads, we have added wells to capture the rain water. Depending on the soil condition and the need, we will add more wells of the same sort. One of the most well designed roads which increases safety of pedestrians, improves traffic flow, prevents haphazard parking and ensures enforcement, so that the place looks complete and well planned. At the moment, we have plans for 50 to 100kms of city ring roads and redeveloping it.

Bicycle sharing has been one of the key components of some of the most aspired Smart Cities in the country. What is the status of shared bicycles in Chennai?

Our goal is to achieve minimum 5000 shared bicycle over across 500 prime locations or more make cycling a serious alternate to cars for people to commute, which can not only promote health but also cut on the pollution from car emission. Right now we have been able to deploy about 250 bicycles in 25 locations, and surprisingly it is turning out to be very popular in the city. Presently, we are studying these 25 locations and 250 bicycles to understand the glitch, if any, before we scale. Also Chennai Metro Rail is keen to integrate shared bicycle to ensure last mile connectivity for citizen commutation.

Each cycle has a unique number which enables easy tracking. In the long run, a Control room, at Anna Nagar, zonal office will track the usage of all these cycles and track them- calls being made to public to ensure that once used, the bicycles are dropped in their designated stands.

What strategies are you adopting to build Chennai as a Smart Sustainable metropolitan City?

Tamil Nadu government already notified Chennai Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (CUMTA), which is supposed to co-ordinate between buses metro rails and other modes of transportation in the city and the goal is to move to higher percentage of public transport. Also, Tamil Nadu government is extending efforts in introducing electric buses, besides the Phase II and Phase III metro work – all intended for seamless transport services in the state and cities.

Also, shared bicycle and many of our smart parking initiatives can be a good example of sustainability introduced in Chennai Smart City. About 110 water bodies in Smart Cities are eco-restored. While many of them are restored using smart city funds while funds for many comes from collaboration of CSR initiatives and technical NGO’s which have experience of working towards restoring water-bodies. While some water-bodies have been dramatically restored already, others are in the process of getting restored, because Chennai being a water-starved city, the idea is to do eco-restoration and the drain water is structured. These are like neighbourhood ponds of 1 acre, 5 acres and 10 acres.

Credai Chennai has signed a MoU with Chennai Corporation for restoration of 10 Water Bodies. What steps are being taken towards implementation of this initiative?

A consortium has been formed by Credai, CII and Rotary and similar groups, who brought in CSR funds for this eco-restoration, after involving a technical NGO and a detailed project report (DPR) is submitted. In this case the consortium has engaged Environmentalist Foundation of India (EFI) for carrying out the restoration work. A city-based NGO, Chennai City Connect is coordinating the effort. With this we are proud to announce that within a span of only one year of the launch of this initiative about a 100 water bodies are already restored, which is half the mark-way in this restoration initiatives.

Please elaborate about the Smart parking project that is under process in Chennai.

If done in the right manner and pace, our smart parking project could be one of the biggest smart parking projects in the country. So, we have identified 373 main road bus routes, about 12000 Equivalent Car Spaces (ECS) to implement this project. In this case the corporation and the city traffic police will decide where parking is allowed for a without a cost and where it is not allowed or no parking. So we have organised a tender bidding a consortium of companies – ASCII data and ???, under a PPP project, where they determine both Capex and Opex; has come forward to implement this. It is a camera-based system where the camera and analytics that recognizes which slots are empty and which are full. So, a user can use a smart phone to where to park in the destination that he is heading to and then he can pay electronically.