In the last couple of years, smart cities has become the buzzword in India’s citified parlance. Urban development professionals are engaged in not only trying to zero in on the exact definition of a smart city but also analysing living examples of the possible components in this regard, both within and outside the country. States are vying with each other in the run-up to make it to the smart cities list. The present government has been focussing on building new well planned cities, and retrofitting the existing ones. To improve the urban centres, two major schemes—the Smart Cities Mission and Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) were launched in June 2015 (Press Information Bureau, 2015 June 25). While the Smart Cities Mission is focussing on building innovative, hi-tech and digitally advanced cities; AMRUT aims at providing excellent basic amenities, such as adequate water, electricity, sanitation and other such services.
Selection of Smart Cities
The Smart Cities Mission selected 20 cities to be developed into smart cities in the first list released in January 2016. The selection covered a wide geographical area among which were New Delhi and Chennai (Indian Express, 2016 January 29). Recently, Warangal, along with 13 other cities were added to the initial list in May 2016. The names were selected from a list of 97 cities submitted by states during a competition last year (NDTV, 2016 May 24). In the next five years, the Central Government aims to develop 100 smart cities, in various phases, all across the country. The smart cities are to be developed on an interactive basis with the contributions, in equal measure, by the central, state and local governments.
Even though Hyderabad was not selected under the smart cities either in the first or in the second list, it is one of the cities that feature on AMRUT’s list. In order to get selected, a city must be evaluated on the basis of impact factor, cost efficiency, innovation and security and processes followed. However, in practice smart cities conform to the following features, which are open to further development:
- Adequate water supply;
- Assured electricity supply;
- Sanitation, including solid waste management;
- Efficient urban mobility and public transport;
- Affordable housing, especially for the poor;
- Robust IT connectivity and digitisation;
- Good governance, especially e-Governance and citizen participation;
- Sustainable environment;
- Safety and security of citizens, particularly women, children and the elderly; and
- Health and education.
The Case for Hyderabad
Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) has tripled its revenue from property tax without any revision of tax rate or assessment rate benchmarks. Through its use of technology, better management practices, data analytics and better targeting GHMC achieved an annual collection of INR 3.76 billion in 2008-09 to INR 11.15 billion in 2014-15. GHMC manages its revenue collection online through multiple modes such as its own Citizen Service Centres, State-run Mee Seva (which in Telugu means ‘Your Service’) Centres, handheld devices (which synchronise with backend computer servers on real time basis) and also online through net banking, debit and credit cards. This use of modern technology that is easily accessible to the citizens has made life less cumbersome.
Smarter Urban Infrastructure
Infrastructure forms the backbone of the functioning of a city. Latest infrastructure acts as a catalyst in its growth and development. Hyderabad has been able to construct a greenfield airport on public private partnership (PPP) basis and it is one of the best airports in the world in its category.
Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, spread over an area of 5500 acres, is functional since 2008. It is a joint venture between the GMR group, Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB), Government of Telangana and Airports Authority of India (AAI). As it is spread over a vast area of land the airport attracts maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facilities. This has facilitated the city in becoming not just the hub aircraft maintenance facility but also embarks its advent in the manufacturing sector. The airport, on a trial basis, has initiated acceptance of virtual boarding passes thus making travel, paper and hassle free.
On the transport front, another notable achievement is the 159 km long, eight lane expressway around the city which is called the Outer Ring Road (ORR). Developed by the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA) at a cost of nearly INR 70 billion with partial assistance from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the ORR has opened up thousands of acres of land, hitherto inaccessible, for potential development. HMDA has been able to take up land pooling near ORR in nearly 500 acres through agreement with landowners (Ali, 2013 November 27) without resorting to land acquisition. This is an ideal way to go forward in taking up planned development of lands around the city which is a win-win situation for both the landowners and the government. Further the ORR has helped the traffic to bypass Hyderabad without entering the city thereby reducing the load on city roads.
An 11.6 km, four lane, elevated expressway called PV Narasimha Rao (PVNR) expressway built recently by HMDA provides better connectivity to the airport from the heart of the city and has also reduced travel time. With only three up and down ramps each, it is an ideal way forward for all Indian cities to replicate. After the success of the elevated expressway, Hyderabad is now planning more such infrastructures in other parts of the city and has started work on designing a 42 km long, east-west elevated expressway, connecting the eastern part of ORR to the western part, along the banks of the Musi River.
Smarter Urban Transportation
Similar to most Indian cities, Hyderabad also suffers from traffic problems resulting from mushrooming of vehicles on the roads, heterogeneous nature of traffic and poor driving sense. In order to ease out the situation, Hyderabad is constructing a 72 km long elevated metro rail on PPP basis. When operational, it will be the world’s longest elevated rail (Hyderabad Metro Rail Limited, 2016). Hyderabad Metro Rail, the nodal agency and the Operator Larsen & Toubro are in the process of procuring state of the art technology from around the globe to ensure that commuters have real time access to the metro through mobile phones. The city is also realigning its bus operations on metro routes to provide feeder services for better integration of bus and metro services.
For traffic management, the Government of Telangana, GHMC and Hyderabad Traffic Police are jointly executing the Hyderabad Traffic Integrated Management System (HTRIMS) (Hyderabad Traffic Police, 2012). This project, which is being executed by Bharat Electronics Limited, has replaced 221 signal junctions across the city with centrally controlled synchronised signal and corridor management. Vehicle actuated technology has been used to activate signals when vehicles approach, or bypass otherwise. Each signal has cameras in various directions to monitor traffic congestion and density. Timers have also been put on most signals to ease the waiting or crossing traffic. The project is linked to service level agreement (SLA) performance and is a paradigm shift from ‘Concept to Contract’ to ‘Concept to Service’.
The State has also sanctioned 1500 motorbikes and 1650 Innova cars to modernise the Hyderabad city police. The aim is to ensure regular patrolling of the city especially at night and enable the police to reach crime spots within minutes. Each vehicle being used by the Hyderabad Police is fitted with a Global Positioning System (GPS) so that it can be tracked from the control room and sent to the required place, from the nearest available location, in no time.
In the interests of women’s safety, Hyderabad and Cyberabad Metropolitan Police have initiated a unique concept of ‘She Teams’ (The Siasat Daily, 2015 March 17), which are all women, dedicated to the safety of women. Their main task is to ensure confidence among women, especially in the IT and BPO industry area where women work night shifts.
In line with the concept of smarter security, the Chief Minister of Telangana has laid foundation of the Integrated Centralised Command and Control Centre (ICCCC) with a sanctioned amount of INR 3.02 billion in the current budget, and another INR 7 billion promised in the next budget. The ICCCC will be the nerve centre for police activities in the city, apart from being the city police headquarters, and can serve during natural calamities for crisis management. Connected to more than 100,000 closed circuit television systems (CCTVs), it will also be able to monitor any situation across the city on a real time basis.
Smarter Solid Waste Management
The city of Hyderabad has also adopted smarter ways of solid waste management, both, in the area of treatment and disposal as well as collection and transport. The city generates nearly 3500 tonnes of garbage daily and is scientifically treating the entire garbage by generating refuse derived fuel (RDF), which is then sold to the boilers. The rest is converted into compost which is used on farms. The leftover is disposed off into landfills. This project is on PPP basis and includes setting up a 45 MW power plant from the waste in the near future. The city has also procured 2000 mini tippers which shall be operated by unemployed youth on driver cum owner basis. The tippers will collect garbage, from house to house, on a nominal monthly charge fixed by the municipal corporation and take the garbage to a transfer station within a radius of 3-5 km. The garbage bin will then be transferred to larger trucks and taken for treatment to the disposal site. Each truck, in turn, is weighed on a computerised weighing station before it enters the site so that there is accountability and documentation of the garbage brought in.
Issues to be tackled
Just like any other fast developing urban centre, Hyderabad too has some infrastructural bottlenecks that can be tackled if necessary planning is put in place. Since it is an old city, there are narrow lanes in its inner part where vehicles cannot move freely. Widening such roads will ease vehicular movement.
The city has sufficient infrastructure to harness green power by building more green energy projects, green buildings which the Smart Cities Mission has especially emphasised on (Ministry of Urban Development, 2015 June). Hyderabad is already on the AMRUT list under which its basic infrastructure services are to be augmented. The city can further strengthen its infrastructure under AMRUT, and concentrate on removing the bottlenecks it suffers from. Soon it will be a model smart city.
Hyderabad has been constantly innovating in order to provide better governance to its citizens. Owing to its sheer geographical extent, developmental works has taken longer than expected. Nevertheless, the city’s undying spirit and commitment towards development will soon make it an exemplary ‘smart city’ and pave the way for other cities in becoming smarter cities.
Ali, R.M. (2013, November 27). 200 farmers to pool land. Deccan Chronicle. Retrieved from http://www.deccanchronicle.com/131127/news-current-affairs/article/200-farmers-pool-land.
Hyderabad Metro Rail. (2016). Mission of HMR. Retrieved from http://www.hmr.gov.in/welcome.html.
Hyderabad Traffic Police. (2012). Enigmatic Traffic Signals HTRIMS. Retrieved from http://hyderabad.trafficpolice.co.in/2012/09/enigmatic-traffic-signals-htrims.html
Indian Express. (2016, January 29). Bhubaneswar leads Govt’s Smart City list, Rs 50,802 crore to be invested over five years. Retrieved from http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/bhubaneswar-tops-first-list-of-smart-cities/.
Ministry of Urban Development. (2015, June). Smart City Mission transformation. Mission Statement and Guidelines. Retrieved from http://smartcities.gov.in/writereaddata/SmartCityGuidelines.pdf.
NDTV. (2016, May 24). Lucknow, Warangal…2nd list of smart cities is out: 10 facts. Retrieved from http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/lucknow-warangal-2nd-list-of-smart-cities-is-out-10-facts-1409414.
Press Information Bureau, Government of India. (2015 June 25). PM’s remarks at the launch of AMRUT, Smart Cities Mission and housing for all (urban). Retrieved from http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=122781.
The Siasat Daily. (2015, March 17). SHE team in all district of Telangana from April 1. Retrieved from http://www.siasat.com/news/she-team-all-district-telangana-april-1-732471/.