How smartly is Bhopal shaping up?

The Bhopal Smart City project has made steady progress: CEO Chandramauli Shukla

A fortnight back, Bhopal Smart City Development Corporation Ltd (BSCDCL) crossed an important milestone. The city’s state-of-the-art Integrated Control and Command Centre (ICCC), a key part of the project, was inaugurated. Earlier, Chandramauli Shukla, CEO, BSCDCL, spoke to BusinessLine about the various initiatives undertaken, and the progress made so far. Excerpts:

How is the Bhopal Smart City project shaping up?

Bhopal was in the first list of 20 cities selected by the Centre to implement the Smart City programme. It was the only city to be selected for an exclusively redevelopment-based model. In the other 19 cities, it was either retrofitting or a combination of retrofitting and redevelopment. Bhopal was the first city in the country to appoint its consultants for the Smart City project. We had extensive citizen engagement and understood our resources well; so we had a robust proposal.

The area selected for redevelopment is 340-350 acres. The proposals were categorised into area-based development and pan-city initiatives. Our proposal size is nearly ₹3,500 crore. We will be getting about ₹1,000 crore from the State and the Centre on a year-to-year basis for five years. We also have to generate money to do more projects in the future.

One of our pan-city projects that has taken off is smart poles and intelligent street lighting. This project has a capex of about ₹390 crore, and further ₹300 crore as opex. The project is being implemented through the PPP (public-private partnership) model. We have engaged reputed solution providers such as Bharti Infratel and Ericsson, and are generating revenues from it.

Another project, public bike sharing (PBS), inaugurated last year, has become very popular — from June 2017 until now, there have been more than 30,000 registrations, with citizens paying ₹500 each. Initially, the project envisaged about 50 stations and 500 bicycles; now, there’s increasing demand from politicians and various neighbourhoods. Around Hoshangabad Road, we have made a five-metre wide bicycle track of around 12 km.

Another project is ‘Mayor Express’, a dynamic marketplace for handyman services. You can get services such as those of a plumber and an electrician in an organised way. Then, there is the Bhopal Plus app that aims to provide key services through a mobile platform, backed by a robust back-end; around 17-18 services have been integrated. The Smart City guidelines speak of continuous engagement with people. Through this platform, we have used inputs to set up our new bicycle stations and start bus routes.

Not just area-based development or IT-related aspects, we have also taken up restoration of our heritage buildings, such as Sadar Manzil that was the headquarters of the municipal corporation.

Then, there is the state-of-the art cloud-based Integrated Control and Command Centre (ICCC). We are also setting up an incubation centre. There are other projects on the anvil.

Are all these projects implementable across the city?

None of what I have discussed is restricted to any particular part of the city — these are across the city.

Once people start seeing the implementation, they don’t see anything done under the Smart City banner that is area-specific or elite-oriented. Most of the projects being implemented are outside the 340 acres. We have taken special care, especially for the older city, which has a lot of heritage buildings. One of the projects being implemented through INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) is the restoration of the city gates.

Is the Smart City project’s ambitious timeline of five years achievable?

Everything may not change in five years, but a lot of the change will be visible. Over the past two years, many processes — consultants coming in, design getting approved, land getting transferred — have got done. Processes take time, but it is important to have a good plan instead of rushing it.

We submitted a proposal of 10 years and are trying to implement the proposal approved by the government. Some projects will be implemented in a year, some in two, some in five. The infrastructure to make these things happen will definitely be there in five years.

Is the special purpose vehicle adequately funded?

The problem is not about funds, it is more about spending. Most of the bigger projects are through PPP. In the initial one or one-and-a-half years, cities take time in planning. The implementation has started. The Bhopal Smart City SPV has given a total work order of around ₹1,000 crore. Once those things start getting implemented, the expenditure will start, may be in a few months. The government is supporting us, including through funds from the World Bank. We have submitted a proposal to the Asian Development Bank too.

The government has allotted land worth ₹6,000 crore to the SPV; so we do not have land issues. We can generate huge money if we sell a portion of the land after developing some infrastructure, as the land is smartly placed.

What are the initiatives on urban mobility?

There are three projects. PBS is one of them. Then there is the integrated transport system being implemented by another company, Bhopal City Link. It includes automatic ticket-vending and fare collection, passenger information system in buses as well as bus shelters, and a control centre.

These buses are fit with CCTV cameras and GPS, with which they can be tracked in real-time. We are in the process of integrating the bus card with the bicycling system.

The city operates 345 buses and plans to add another 100-plus buses, including hybrid and electric ones. From the size perspective, the city needs more public transport. A metro has also been planned. Then, there is the element of managing traffic flow smartly. Cameras fitted to gantries will capture traffic violations and the challan will be automatically generated and sent over email and as a WhatsApp message. We have done the work at two intersections and plan to cover 21 more.

We have also made a proposal to connect various parts of the city either through walking or cycling. The project is worth ₹70-80 crore. In some parts of the city, we have dedicated wide spaces for walking, cycling and motorised vehicles. We are converting a 35-acre park into a bicycle park.

What is the plan for water and power supply?

The city has three water sources, 11 water-treatment plants and 140 water tanks. We plan to use SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) to help automate the entire water-supply set-up, detect leakages and optimise consumption. A Smart City is mandated to create some power supply through alternative energy sources. Three of our projects are towards this. We plan to generate nearly 2MW of solar power.

How are you handling waste?

The entire project of waste management, including door-to-door collection, transportation, segregation, waste processing, conversion to energy, has been awarded. A new site has been identified; work has started to convert waste into energy.

What are your plans for educational facilities?

We have identified 11 schools to implement our project. Our approach is to work on the entire school — physical infrastructure as well as the smartness quotient, including content and updation — rather than having only a few smart classes within a school.

The writer was in Bhopal at the invitation of BSCDCL

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