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Smart Cities In Gujarat: Sincere Efforts Towards Urbanization

Ahmedabad Smart City has been working on various key projects like Integrated Command & Control Centre which has been rolled out for the better of citizens while the Intelligent Traffic Management System (ITMS) & Janmitra App have also been launched.

What would be the first question which comes to your mind when you think about Smart Cities or Smart City?

The answer is, there is no definition of a smart city. It varies from State to State, City to state and people to people. It is always known to be different aspects to different people. Smart City depends on the level of development, willingness to unite for a change and urban reforms with available resources and citizen engagement.

Smart Cities mission is a five-year program, where all the Indian states and Union territories are participating by nominating their cities for the Smart Cities challenge where financial aid will be given by the central and state governments between 2017-2022 to the cities, and the mission will start showing results from 2022 onward.

In five rounds of Smart Cities mission, Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs (MOHUA) Selected 99 cities which will be transformed towards better urbanisation & ease of citizen centric services. MOHUA selected six cities from the state of Gujarat for Smart Cities mission. According to the date released by MOHUA few months ago, the state of Gujarat received a total sum of Rs 509 crore for development of six smart cities in the state

Various projects like Integrated Command & Control Centres, Riverfront development, Intelligent Transit Management System, Smart Roads, rejuvenation of water bodies, walking paths, smart classrooms, skill development centres, and upgradation of health facilities were initiated under the Smart Cities mission in the state. Chief Minister of Gujarat Vijay Rupani has kept the Smart Cities mission of the state as one of the key focus areas in development of projects across the state.

Know More about Ahmedabad Smart City 

Ahmedabad the largest city in Gujarat, and the administrative capital of Ahmedabad district is the seventh largest metropolitan area in India and is an important economic and industrial hub for the state. It is reported to be one of the fastest growing cities of the decade in various rankings. Textile, Pharmaceuticals and Automobile are the most prominent industries based in and around Ahmedabad. In addition, there has been significant advancement of the IT sector as well, as many prestigious higher-education institutes in the city continue to at-tract a large pool of highly skilled young professionals.

Currently, there are four SEZ’s in the city region, with another three new industrial estates in planning, by the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC). In terms of transport infrastructure, Ahmedabad has a successful BRT system in operation, and a proposed metro rail set to open soon. Ahmedabad Smart City has been working on various key projects like Integrated Command & Control Centre which has been rolled out for the better of citizens while the Intelligent Traffic Management System (ITMS) & Janmitra App have also been launched.

Ahmedabad was amongst the first slot of cities to be selected for the Smart Cities Mission. Ranked at number six, the city was behind Pune, Bhubaneswar, Jaipur, Kochi and Surat, however, the recent tag of becoming India’s first heritage city has boosted the enthusiasm of city officials who are trying their best to maintain the status of India’s first heritage city and at the same time transform it into a smart city.

According to Rakesh Shankar, CEO- SPV (Smart City), Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, in the last few months, the city has taken many steps to transform the city and he feels that with its latest prepaid Janmitra card, the city has really taken a smart leap in this direction.

One Card for All

The card, launched in October, is multifaceted and multi-usage card. The Janmitra card, as it is called, can be seamlessly used for all major transport systems, for paying bills, parking fee, recreational areas, municipal bills, utility payments, retail and will also be accepted while travelling in Ahmedabad Metro Rail, which is expected to be operational in the city by the next year. “It is a very dynamic and well leveraged card. In fact, in India, this is first of its kind of card, where only one card takes care of all your needs. You do not have to carry anything else in your pocket,” said Rakesh Shankar, CEO-SPV (Smart City), Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation told BW SmartCities.

Apart from being compatible with BRTS and Metro, these cards can also be used to pay bills, property taxes, toll taxes, for parking purposes, for other recreational activities in the city and also for shopping, which the city authorities claim, will remove the need for carrying a debit card. “It is also going to be compatible with metro that comes in future, 2018, at the same time, with the same card, you can pay all your corporation taxes. You can come as a citizen and pay your taxes there and then you can do shopping, so your merchant transactions, your detailed transactions, your corporation payments, your typical payments for transit, everything can be done by one card. You do not need anything else,” Shankar added.

Progress So Far

Expressing his satisfaction over the progress of the smart city project in the city, He feels that the smart city mission project is well on the track. Lots of civil works are going on in the city and according to him its impacts will be visible in the coming few months. “In pan-city project, we have already completed our aims,” says Shankar who feels that the Ahmedabad Smart City is well on track. The progress on ‘Safe Ahmedabad project’ is good and once installed it can modernize the traffic movement in the city. The whole project boasts of command and control system, red light violation detection system, traffic management, smart parking and the IoT project, which he claims will be completed well on time.

Overall, out of the 11 total projects, eight are already in progress. Further, with regards to the area based development, progress is on. The slum area development project worth Rs. 450 crores has already been started. Work is undergoing for the housing projects on the PPP basis.

Smart Mobility

Streamlining the traffic in the city has been a major area of concern for the city authorities. However, the municipal body is taking many measures to ease the traffic situation. This includes installing automatic number plate detection system to control the traffic rule violators, which is expected to be operational by next year.

“Also, one tender is in the offing, where we envisage that the multi-model hub, which connects BRTS, AMTS, GSRTC, and upcoming metro station all at one place so, the citizens of Ahmedabad and people who are coming to visit the city can get aligned with last mile connectivity and modern transportation with ease. That’s the promise of Ahmedabad smart city,” asserts Shankar. Also, the city will be placed under heavy sur-veillance system. BRTS is to be equipped with smart card, CCTV, optical fiber and Passenger Information System (PIS). The city authorities have also gone ahead with massive smart street lighting programme.

“We have changed all the lights of corporation, (1.5 million street lights) and only 20,000 are remaining. All the traditional lights are replaced with the LED lights and are seamlessly connected to a command and control system.”

Challenges

On challenges Shankar feels that the retrofitting work is more challenging. “One thing we will have to realize is that the city is a management of old infrastructure and you keep building on new infrastructure and there is a lot of maintenance that is happening. There are a lot of customer complaints, citizen complaints with regards to sewerage, water, gutters, roads, gardens and parks.” the CEO laments.

Seamless Technology

And here, he feels, technology can play a pivotal role, by not just bridging the gap but, also in making the citizens reach out to authorities with their civic problems. “What technology does is to bridge the gap on how the citizens will access you for raising their issue. First, technology bridges the gap between your client, citizen, corporation and the the service provider and secondly, what technology does is that it saves time for solving problems,” Shankar argues.

And he gives the instance of SCADA technology. “If you look at the SCADA technology, which we have already deployed, it helps us to know, where exactly the problems in the motor systems are and then solve that specific customer problem. Same thing is applicable for other areas like sewerage and roads etc. So, technology helps you with this gap. It cuts down on your cost of maintenance and second, it helps your clients and citizens connect with you faster and better,” said Shankar.

More Smart Cities in Gujarat

Command and control centres have become operational in four cities such as Surat, Rajkot, Nagpur and Vadodara. Rajkot has introduced various projects like Chatbot, Traffic management and 24X& water supply. B. N. Pani, Commissioner, Rajkot Municipal Corporation sheds some light on the government’s advancements in AI technology. He mentioned that Rajkot Municipal Corporation has recently started a chatbot project on its website. According to him, the chatbot proves to be very viable where one can ask as many questions as he/she wishes to and get all the answers. Questions ranging from government schemes to property tax details can be answered immediately if asked.

“It works as Siri of Smart City just like SIRI of iOS. Rajkot Municipal Corporation’s website is the first website which has the chatbot system and the robot is trained to answer all questions. Interestingly, we have been able to implement this particular technology without spending a penny as we found a talented boy through a hackathon which was held by the corporation. The talent is already there in the system, we just need to utilize it.” he added.

Vadodara has also introduced some key projects Like City Command & Control Centre within 8 months record time as per the Vadodara Smart City Development. Manish Bhatt, Director (Information technology) of Vadodara Smart City said, “We are coming up with Smart Transit Management System and bicycle sharing which will ease mobility across the city.

Way Forward

In the year 2018, Smart Cities of Gujarat will see various new projects coming up in state with better citizen engagement & guidance of Chief Minister of the state.