Chandigarh | Smarter facilities for smart city!

What can you expect to get under the Smart City project? Here’s the lowdown

IF ALL goes as per plans, five years down the line, Chandigarh may offer a host of new facilities for its residents. Designated car-free zones, intelligent traffic management system, wi-fi spots, 24X7 water supply, smart power system is what you can expect to get under the Smart City project. The total cost of City Beautiful’s makeover is pegged at Rs 6,200 crore, of which Rs 5,950 crore is for area-based development and Rs 250 crore is for the pan-city proposal. Experts feel that to achieve this target, the city has a long way to go.

As per the plan, in the first phase of the Smart City project initiated by the Ministry of Urban Development, Chandigarh will get Rs 200 crore. An amount of Rs 100 crore has already been received by the Chandigarh Administration for the project.

Initially, the administration had decided on carrying out area-based development in sectors 17, 22, 35 and 43 on a pilot basis. These sectors were selected by voting from the general public that wanted area-based development in these sectors first. However, just recently, the administration decided to carry out the smart city work across all the sectors.

“Under the smart city project, there would be a sustainable habitat, best quality of life for people of Chandigarh, accessible transport system, a green and a healthy environment for residents,” says nodal officer Baldeo Purushartha, who is also Municipal Commissioner.

Smart water meters, smart grid, wi-fi spots, intelligent traffic management system, pedestrian pavements is what all the sectors would be provided with. Apart from these, there would be smart pipes that would be connected with a wireless processor to help detect leakage in real time, with a system of online monitoring of the entire distribution in place everywhere.

Footpaths and cycling tracks will also be laid on roadsides all along the inter-sector roads as well as those leading to markets to encourage people to switch over to non-motorised transport. Traffic-sensing lights or smoother flow of traffic and lesser pollution, e-surveillance with CCTV cameras and sensors at every point to help in better traffic management is being planned for the city.

Food courts and street cafes like those in countries abroad, separate open spaces for weekly markets and recreational activities are proposed. Another goal is to make the city economically vibrant where residents have suitable employment opportunities, adequate skilled resources, incubation and knowledge hub. For this, the administration has decided to set up a Smart City Innovation Centre on the Punjab Engineering College (PEC) campus.

The deadline for the development of this centre is April 2017. Various companies would come over and display their latest technologies. Companies such as Larsen and Toubro, CISCO, Nokia, IBM, Intel, Sterlite, Videocon, Dell-EMC, SAP, Ericsson, Wipro and Infosys have already associated themselves with the project.

The following are some key areas for which proposals have been mooted under the Smart City project.

With 24X7 water supply in all the sectors, smart water meters in every household, a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system that would monitor the complete transportation, distribution and treatment of water is what has been planned under the smart water supply.

About Rs 8.25 crore has been allocated for smart meters and Rs 12.2 crore would be for the SCADA system. Rs 2.20 crore would be spent on networking for 24X7 water supply in these sectors.

But to achieve the smart water supply target for the city seems to be a difficult task. Even as the Chandigarh smart City Company Limited has been formed which has started its work, there is a long way to go. While 24X7 water supply was introduced in two sectors in the past, the plan failed as the city is short of water. A survey had found that here in the city, the per capita water supply for a person is way more than actual limit. It was found that posh areas like sectors 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8 and 9 are drawing more than 1,000 litre water per person per day as against the average domestic demand of the city which is 252 litre per person per day. Those living in sectors 33, 34, 35, 36 and 49 have been getting 400 litre per capita per day (LPCD). This is also against the national norm fixed by the Central Public Health Engineering and Environment Organisation (CPHEEO), which is 135 litre per person per day.

Drinking water is used for irrigation of lawns, leading to wastage of water, as per the study.

Even as the MC is hopeful of getting 29mgd extra from phase 5 and 6 of the Kajauli waterworks, efforts appear to be wasteful in the absence of no rationalisation.

The matter had come to light when a report under the Smart City project was prepared. As per the report, the existing water supply is sufficient to cater to the city demand up to the year 2026, taking into consideration the growth rate of the city’s population. Also, water supply to the city villages has a separate network, which gets supply from tubewells.

The average domestic consumption per day by the residents is 250 litre as compared to 135 litre at the national level. Former chairman of the Water Supply and Sewerage Disposal Committee Major (retd) D S Sandhu says, “Focusing on getting extra supply of 29 MGD won’t serve purpose. Instead, it is a wasteful expenditure. There should be proper rationalising of water on the ground. Also, existing infrastructure should be focused upon.”

No water mapping has been done in the past two decades. Despite a survey, the MC has failed to rationalise water distribution in northern and southern sectors. Nodal officer Purushartha says, “I agree people are consuming more water and the only way to rationalise is to make water tariff telescopic. The basic water demand will come at lower rates while the rate of tariff would increase as the consumption rises.”

The city’s transport system will get a complete overhaul, with about Rs 250 crore of the total funds for the Smart City project to be spent only on transportation. People can expect facilities that are available abroad.

Chandigarh would have an intelligent transport system which would include smart ticketing for people and passenger information system. People would get real-time information about arrival and departure time of buses, the route it will take and stoppage time on a real-time basis through mobile applications.

There would be an intelligent traffic management system under which cameras and sensors would be installed on all the points of the city. This would give details about vehicle drivers who are speeding or jumping the crossing. Under these technologies, even the car drivers can use smartphones to monitor traffic speed and density. Audio data and GPS tagging enables identification of traffic density and possible traffic jams in the city.

The part of the project for which maximum funds have been allocated is the use of electric buses that would be operated on electricity within the city. Also, there would be battery-operated buses which would come at a cost of Rs 10 crore for movement within city’s heart, Sector 17. Tenders have already been floated for the electric buses. Rs 152 crore has been allocated under this head which also includes refurbishment of the existing buses.

As in foreign countries, Chandigarh would also have a public bicycle-sharing system. Recently an expression of interest was called from a company that can offer 10,000 cycles at 600 various points in the city. The proposal mentions that the bicycle-sharing system should cover the entire city to ensure and promote use of bicycle as a practical and easy way to use alternative transport system. These bicycle-sharing points would be introduced at Sector 17 Plaza, Panjab University, Sukhna Lake, Rose Garden, PGI and other busy places in the city. Chandigarh was planned in a way to suit cyclists and it has a cycle track spread over 70 km across all sectors but unfortunately, a large number of tracks are poorly maintained.

However, the ground reality of the cycle tracks is a little different. One can find garbage dumped at the cycle tracks. At some places, the cycle tracks are being used for parking by autorickshaw or cab drivers.

New proposals are good but the transport system can become smart only when residents think smart. “Even if these systems are introduced, I feel one requires to spread a lot of awareness first. Like the administration may introduce bicycle-sharing but the city should be cycle-friendly first of all. People should be made aware of the benefits of using a cycle to their home or their office,” says Surinder Bahga, architect and former nominated councillor.

He adds, “In foreign countries, if you are walking, the car driver won’t honk and rather give preference to the pedestrians. Here it is not the case. We need to have a city culture in which people give way to pedestrians or cyclists.”

Smart power meters, LED lighting across the city and solar rooftops — this is what the UT Administration aims to have under the Smart City project.

Even as the UT Administration aims to bring in a smart power system, the condition of power is not good in Chandigarh, especially during summers. The peak demand reaches 450 megawatt in the summers while the capacity is only 260 megawatt.

The electricity department does not have its own power generation source and buys its power through its allocation from central generating stations (CGS): the National Thermal Power Corporation Limited (NTPC), National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC), Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB), Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN) and Tehri Hydro Development Corporation Ltd (THDC). When there is a shortage, there is no other option but to have power cuts in Chandigarh.

Knowing that the demand is increasing every summer, Chandigarh is aiming to have a solar power plant on rooftop of all the buildings under the smart power system.

The solar power plants have been made mandatory and every existing building needs to have it before May 15, 2018.

Here, too, the administration is facing hurdles. Even as just one year is left, there are only 200 buildings, including 55 residential houses, of about 15,000 such buildings that have installed the solar power plants. Despite efforts by the UT to intensify the drive, there are not many takers who are coming forward to install the solar power plants.

“The authorities need to get strict on this, if they really need to achieve the tag of solar city. What to talk of May 2018, I don’t think UT would be able to ensure solar rooftops at more than 40 per cent of the existing buildings in another three years,” says a senior UT officer.

The solar power plants have to be installed in buildings with a plot size of 500 square yards and above. The buildings with a plot size below 500 square yards, have been exempted. For any new building that is to come up in Chandigarh, a solar power plant is also mandatory to be installed on the rooftop. In this case, the no-objection certificate from the estate office is not given until one shows that a solar power plant has been installed.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of CREST Santosh Kumar says, “A lot of awareness is required for installation of solar power plants.”

Next in line are smart meters which would record consumption of electrical energy and communicate that information regularly to the utility for monitoring and billing. Smart meters enable two-way communication between the meter and the central system. Unlike home energy monitors, smart meters can gather data for remote reporting. Such an advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) differs from traditional automatic meter reading.

The city would have all underground power cabling. This would begin with Sector 8 on a pilot basis. With this, one won’t come across overhead electricity wires as they all would be underground. Nodal officer Purushartha says, “The UT engineering wing has already initiated work for the underground power cabling.”

Knowing the power situation in Chandigarh, the UT Administration has also introduced an LED bulb scheme wherein they have started giving LED bulbs and fans on nominal rates at the e-sampark centres.

UT Chief Engineer Mukesh Anand says, “EESL will sell LEDs at nominal rates so that it encourages people to use LEDs at home as it will not only save energy but their electricity bills would also be halved.”

To save 50 per cent energy in the street lighting too, the Municipal Corporation has already signed agreements with Energy Efficient Services Ltd (EESL) regarding replacement of existing conventional 48,000 street lights with LED street lights in Chandigarh. At present, the total electricity bill of the street lights amounts to Rs 12.64 crore annually. Conversion of these lights into energy-efficient LED street lights will lead to saving of energy consumption up to 50-60 per cent. There would be a Centralised Control and Monitoring System for monitoring of the lighting system.