by Sudheer Goutham
Tell us about the initial challenges
Thiruvananthapuram was selected in the third round of smart cities challenge and secured first rank in that round among the 30 cities selected. Before our city, 60 other cities have begun smart city projects two years earlier in Round 1 and 2. However, we made very good progress in feasibility analysis, technical analysis, DPRs and tendering. It is heartening to note that almost 100% tendering has been completed, a major landmark considering we were reeling under the pandemic. In the latest rankings of Smart Cities Mission, Thiruvananthapuram vastly improved its rank from 90 to 25th rank in 2 years. It reached Top 25 ranks overtaking almost all the cities of round 3 and about 35 cities in round 1 and 2.
We are now moving into implementation stage. We were able to complete small projects before the local body elections and inaugurated many projects. Now, the focus is on completing big projects.
What were the main ideas that came to mind during conception stage for the city?
Thiruvananthapuram has a rich heritage and was the seat of power. Like several other places such as Hyderabad for example, Thiruvananthapuram was a princely state and later merged with the Indian union after independence.
The city has its own cultural milieu and a heritage value. Unlike other places, Malabar region for instance, has a British touch but Thiruvananthapuram is unique and we had this in mind while conceptualizing plans. The idea was to balance heritage and innovation.
We took up several heritage projects such as development of Putharikandam maidan, modernization of Palayam (Connemara) market and Chalai market. All three have their own unique value andcharm. Chalai market has huge historical significance. While taking up all these projects, we have not forgotten that urban spaces are in scarcity in these times. Like European cities we do not have many earmarked pedestrians streets. Towards this end we have started three projects- ManaveeyamVeedhi, Charithra Veedi and RKV Road that would bring back old memories.
To what extent has the Smart City Thiruvananthapuram Ltd engaged people in the project?
The engagement with the citizens for the smart city project was from day one. We set up ward level committees and there were also elections while choosing projects for Smart city challenge. It may surprise many that EVMs were also used. The projects have been meticulously been chosen and many projects were chosen by the citizens themselves.
We work extremely closely with the Municipal Corporation and all the Mayors past and present have been extremely supportive. The Chief Secretary has been highly appreciative of the project and inter departmental secretaries too have lent their support wholeheartedly.
Tell us about the eco-friendly measures taken up in the project
The use of technology has been harnessed to save the environment. The introduction of e-auto rickshaws and electric autos has been well received. 30 electric vehicles are now plying in the city. We were the first agency to ply electric public transport in Kerala. The entire world is moving towards electric mobility and we did not want to lag behind.
Two landfills at Palayam and Chalai have been taken up. The entire landfill of Palayam has been treated with bio-chemicals with 100% safety measures and has completely got back the land by segregating waste components and treating them. Palayam would then be converted into an ultra-modern market and Chalai landfill site would be used for a modern warehousing facility.
Tell us about the smart aspects of the project
Bringing the entire city under the web of cameras, use of Internet of Things (IoT) and other latest technologies for a variety of purposes helps life. Traffic management for instance; monitoring vehicles and setting up a chain of commands using Artificial Intelligence (AI) helps in reducing the waiting time at traffic signals. Traffic violations, face recognition, emergency call box and the entire citizen services will be integrated into the Thiruvananthapuram Smart City. In all, 885 cameras across the smarty city help in making life easy.
All this is possible with the integration at the Integrated Command and Control Centre. The Thampanoor multi-level parking and Palayam electro-mechanical parking system for more than 568 cars are examples of smart parking aspects.
Many cities are finding it difficult to manage their water resources. What are the steps taken?
Smart water meters would be installed in every household at our cost. This will go a long way in reducing wastage. Any water leakage in any area would be addressed within 30 minutes. Pilferage and tampering would be things of the past as real-time feed makes it possible to zero down on the violators. We are also setting up 25 drinking water kiosks at public spaces to address the issue of safe drinking water.
The need for good roads is a problem in all cities. Your comments
The present roads are not pedestrian friendly. Smart roads address this issue. All roads will have underground ducting facilities for electricity, water and telephone lines. Rs 564 crore worth tendering for this component alone has been done. The reason for roads getting damaged is due to the intermittent digging by several line departments.
To tackle this problem we have decided to have separate ducting for electricity water, telecom lines etc. This along with proper space for pedestrians to walk with signages, landscaping and cycle tracks. Once ready, these roads would be going good for at least the next 30 years.
What are the projects that have been completed and which ones are challenging?
Till date close to 20 projects have been completed. Toilets, e-rickshaws, public health centres, anganwadis to name a few have been completed. The smart mosquito density system captures the mosquito density of an area and helps in the decision support system for fogging and mosquito repellant roll out.
The use of smart technology to better the lives of people is at the centre of the smart city project. Solar plants have been put up at five places including Legislative Assembly Complex and Government Secretariat generating 800 kW. Major works would be completed by 2021 and Smart roads by 2022.
The construction of roads is always a huge challenge as people do not want to be inconvenienced. Traffic diversion, for instance is something people need to take in their stride. There is huge inter-departmental coordination whilst such a huge project is undertaken. We interact with the citizens over social media and inform about the projects. I take this opportunity to exhort citizens to support us for a better tomorrow.