Event ReportsPublished on Oct 15, 2019
Need to make smart city mission ‘Citizen-centric’

“In smart cities, the government should be citizen-centric to ensure greater public participation which is important to make the smart cities initiative a success”, according to Dr. M. Ramachandran, former Secretary of the Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India.

Inaugurating the “Smart City Workshop: Sustainable Urban Development” in Kochi on September 20, 2019, Dr. Ramachandran said the purpose of smart city is improve the quality of life of its people in all aspects. He said such an endeavor should provide clean environment, give jobs to people and ensure safety.

The workshop was organised by the South Asia Institute of Heidelberg University (Branch Office New Delhi), ORF, SPA and IMPRI in collaboration with Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR). The event was supported by Friedrich Naumann Stiftung für die Freiheit.

Welcoming the participants, D. Dhanuraj, Chairman, CPPR mentioned such forums help stakeholders learn from each other and give better insights into various activities undertaken as part of smart city initiatives. 

Pablo Holwitt, Resident Representative, Heidelberg University said the workshop series that began in 2016 aim to establish a long-term platform for exchange between scholars and practitioners, both in India and Germany, working on smart cities. Dr. Simi Mehta, CEO, IMPRI, shared some experiences from previous workshops. 

An introduction to smart cities concept was provided by Rumi Aijaz, Senior Fellow, ORF, who emphasised that awareness and involvement of people make the city smart. 

In his keynote address, Dr. Ramachandran highlighted the distinguishing features of India’s Smart Cities Mission, and gave an update on its progress. He said, the mission has resulted in many new ventures. For example, India’s first cloud-based Integrated Command and Control Centre at Bhopal, which consists of a cloud data centre for all seven smart cities of the state, has been able to break silos of city operations. He also expressed concern over cities actually becoming smart and citizens deriving full advantage of the intended outcomes. 

The inaugural session ended with vote of thanks by Ashish Alex, Director of Operations at CPPR. The inaugural session was followed by four thematic sessions. 

Smart Governance, Inclusive Cities 

Raj Cherubal, CEO, Chennai Smart City Limited, shared experiences from Chennai and said technology can help in improving quality of life. He mentioned various smart components which are being integrated with the Command and Control Centre in Chennai.

P.J. Shaji of Kochi Metro Rail Ltd., spoke on ‘Sustainability of Water Metro’ and its potential to bring about a reduction of about 116 tons of CO2 in the atmosphere. He spoke about advantages of operating water transport on latest battery technology using lithium titanate, which have a life of 10 years and can charge fast.

Joy Elamon, Director, Kerala Institute of Local Administration, expressed concern over proliferation of urban poverty and raised question of smartness for whom.

Uday Shankar, Professor at IIT Kharagpur, suggested reforms in SPV Act, and said app-driven complaint mechanism and private dispute redressal in place of court procedure be practiced, which would be instrumental in ensuring smart governance.

The session moderator, Dr. Rumi Aijaz, summarised the proceedings and thanked the session speakers. 

Built environment, Planning and Design

Ritwee Mandal of Safetipin mentioned, “we are far from gender inclusiveness and gender responsive design”. She shared details about Safety Audit, which allows for assessing different parameters linked to safer and more inclusive public spaces.

Sreya of Recycle Bin, Thiruvananthapuram, advocated for a decentralised model of waste disposal. She also stressed on the need for a behavioural shift in dealing with waste, i.e., from dumping to depositing.

Anil Kumar, Head of Department of Architecture of NIT, Calicut, spoke on ‘Lessons from the Floods’. Addressing the impact climate change is having on cities, he said all development projects must reinforce natural infrastructure, and emphasised need for a smart integrated flood management system.

Dhilon Subramaniam of WRI India presented his organisation’s project on ‘Zero Carbon Buildings in Kochi’. He said private builders can be asked to take lead on implementing energy efficient projects, but it is the duty of public sector to showcase benefits of energy efficiency. 

The session moderator, Mr. Jaigopal Rao, MD and Principal Designer at Inspiration, summarised the proceedings and thanked the session speakers. 


K.J. Sohan, Hon’ble ex-Mayor of Kochi corporation said integrated multimodal public transport system in Kochi is the way ahead, as the city is fortunate to have multi-directional road highways, railway lines and waterways. In his view, rationalisation of public transport and integrating it with rails and waterways can easily provide cheap and efficient transport facilities to people besides reducing pollution and congestion.

Rajeev Malagi, Senior Associate, WRI India, in his speech, discussed a people-centric approach to development. Speaking on mobility issues, he said biggest issue we currently face is that investments that go into mass transits often lack full potential due to the poor first and last mile connectivity. The need to create safe access was emphasised.

G.P. Hari, Addl. GM (Urban Transport), Kochi Metro Rail Ltd., mentioned benefits the city will receive with passing of Kerala Metropolitan Transport Authority (KMTA) bill. Physical intervention would include introduction of MRTS, passenger logistics hubs, interchange points and NMT. Intervention from the point of IT would include ITS, mobile apps, journey planner, display units, kiosks, adaptive signalling, etc.

Praseeda Mukundan of CPPR called for better framework for ensuring efficiency in public transport. She stressed, issues like potholes, congestion, pollution, etc. are symptoms of a larger malaise. Deficiencies in on-going initiatives were pointed out such as lack of clarity in the KMTA bill, measures taken by authorities to pay off KIIFB’s huge debts, and policy-level issues in interstate bus services. 

The session moderator, Dr. D. Dhanuraj, summarised the proceedings and thanked the session speakers.

Natural Resources Management

Brajesh K. Dubey, Associate Professor, Civil Engineering Department, IIT Kharagpur, presented his work on ‘Sustainable Waste Management for a Smart City: Examples from Indian Smart City Initiatives’. He stated India produces 62 million tonnes of waste of which 60-70 percent is collected, of which 20-30 percent is treated and the rest ends up in dumpsites. In his opinion, “waste management is a localised site-specific issue and needs site-specific solution”.

Utpal Kumar De, Department of Economics, North-Eastern Hill University (NEHU), Shillong, presented on ‘Extreme Climatic Behaviour, its Impact and Possible Adaptation’. He covered aspects like climate change, adaptation to climate change, adaptation strategies and technological solutions. In his view, quantum of rain received has not declined, but we are unable to collect and store water for later use.

Anirudh Singh of IGSSS Delhi spoke on ‘Smart Cities from Pro-poor Perspective’. He pointed out, all people irrespective of their caste and creed are intended to be included in the smart cities project. However, this is not happening. He presented cases of Indore, Gujarat and Chennai, which showed stories of people losing livelihood, houses, and failure in compensation even after one year.

Ramesh Nair of GIZ spoke on Natural Resources Management and Natural Calamities in Kerala’. He stressed on taking into account ecological factors while planning for smart and sustainable cities. He said that due to mismanagement of natural resources in the past few years, Kerala is confronted with floods and landslides. He also emphasised the need to know the economical and environmental value of our natural resources and a system to evaluate it.

The session chair, Mr. P.C. Mohanan, formerly with National Statistical Commission, and moderator Dr. Arjun Kumar, Director, IMPRI congratulated the session speakers.

This report is compiled by Ms. Praseeda Mukundan, Senior Research Associate, CPPR, Kochi

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