“The city has a functional wet waste processing plant and a biomethanation plant is being commissioned shortly. Work of 30 key roads of the city is ongoing, and another 25 is on the anvil. A new water-supply scheme that will comprehensively address the water situation has been approved. Nearly 80 city buses are running and more are being added to the fleet. All this has resulted in a positive environment in the city that should indirectly result in more jobs in days to come. The projects have also had a positive impact on tourism”, asserted an energetic Nipun Vinayak, Commissioner Aurangabad Municipal Corporation and CEO, Aurangabad Smart City Development Corporation Limited in conversation with Poulami Chakraborty of BW SmartCities World. Excerpts below:
Recently you have been awarded as the Smart city chief for the Smart City project under Aurangabad Smart city Development Corporation Limited. What has been you motivation for the outstanding performance of Aurangabad smart City under your aegis?
Keeping yourself motivated is a very difficult thing, especially while working in extremely challenging roles of CEO of an urban local body. As they say, ' अपनी आग को ज़िंदा रखना कितना मुश्किल है' ! I guess, it was part training and skill; have always liked to take on extremely difficult roles. Partly, it was trying to 'live in the now' - taking one day at a time, and doing what was right for the day. And the rest was family support and grace of God.
Will you share with us about the Smart bus service that has lately been inaugurated in Aurangabad? How have they been unique from other smart city counterparts of Aurangabad?
Public Transportation (lack of) was one of the biggest felt needs of Aurangabad city. Buses with the highest standard were procured and a MoU done with the State Transport for running the same. This was the first of a different kind of PPP - Public-Public Partnership, where strengths of two public agencies, Municipal Corporation (finances, accountability) and State Transport (experience and reliability) were married to create a win-win for all, especially the citizens who had buses running for them in eight months from the conception of the project. These buses are planned to be synced with the MSI (Master System Integrator), another project under Smart City for Smart Transport components, including GPS tracking and real-time scheduling.
How are you dealing with the menace of water scarcity in the region during summers? Please enlighten?
Marathwada, including Aurangabad is drought-prone. For drinking water, the city is dependent on Jayakwadi dam, dependent on rainfall in upper reaches of Nasik. Besides, the water infrastructure is dilapidated and overstretched. As part of 'Smart Water', projects have been undertaken to improve this infrastructure for reaching water to tail-end areas and promoting equitable distribution. A new scheme of upgradation has also been approved. We are also examining the feasibility for wastewater reuse projects. Besides, conservation projects such as a revival of old nehers, desilting of wells, and roof water harvesting are also planned.
Is the Aurangabad Smart City creating more and more jobs in the region? Please share.
The city had earned a bad name due to lack of basic civil infrastructure - garbage crisis, roads, water, transportation etc. Most of these issues have been resolved either fully or partially. The city has a functional wet waste processing plant and a biomethanation plant is being commissioned shortly. Work of 30 key roads of the city is ongoing, and another 25 is on the anvil. A new water-supply scheme that will comprehensively address the water situation has been approved. Nearly 80 city buses are running and more are being added to the fleet. All this has resulted in a positive environment in the city that should indirectly result in more jobs in days to come. The projects have also had a positive impact on tourism. Aurangabad is a heritage city, this has been kept at the centre of Smart City and projects such as Conservation of Heritage Gates and Safari Park (for tourism and promotion of wildlife and flora/fauna) have been taken up under Smart City.
What are the key components/ principles of Smart City project that you have imbibed in your work?
Smart City project's USP lies in its flexibility. The cities are free to conceive and design projects in tune with the requirements of the city. For e.g. Aurangabad is a heritage city with felt need of transportation and issues of basic infrastructure. Syncing our projects with these requirements has resulted in greater utility and acceptance. Secondly, we have tried to achieve more for less through projects such as Smart Education, wherein we introduced summer camps with themes and fun-based learning. More than 7000 children benefitted from this project that costed only Rs 15 lakh. Thirdly, we have kept inclusion at the centre of Smart City and tried to engage processes and projects that benefit everyone, including women, children and the differently-abled. Lastly, citizen engagement has been another pillar, wherein participative workshops have been held with citizens cutting across sectors, eliciting their views on pressing issues and possible solutions.
What challenges are you facing while operating in the region? What methods of mitigation have you adopted for curbing these challenges?
Aurangabad Municipal Corporation and Smart City SPV was afflicted with common challenges found across middle-level towns such as lack of manpower and capacities. This was addressed by roping in some good officers as well as recruiting skilled people from the market. The second challenge was manoeuvring changes and decisions through the various committees and achieving consensus. This was done through close engagement, explaining the logic for decisions and reliance on data. In this regard, it may be useful to consider Smart City SPVs as closely associated with ULB and not a separate entity. Thirdly, certain calculated risks were taken, such as going with State Transport for running of the buses, based on local conditions and need for speedy service delivery.
What policy level changes would do further good to the project ?
There are two risks one has to guard against - one is over reliance on consultants (consultocracy), since the solutions being suggested by some consultants may be out of sync with the requirements of the city. Secondly, some structural changes may be useful; for example, how to streamline procurement so that skilled partners can be engaged. For many sectoral projects, one needs to engage sector experts (as against generic management experts). Their engagement through the routine governmental tendering process can be simplified.
Is the city having an Integrated Command and Control Centre? How unique is it ? What tech-based solutions are you adopting to counter the immense competition for smart solutions for smart cities?
The city will soon have two Integrated Command and Control Centres, one for police surveillance, and other for civic functions. The Municipal e-governance is also being revamped to facilitate easier services for citizens such as online payments. The Solid Waste Management and bus transport services are also planned to be made Smart, using GPS and other technology-based solutions.