Essel Group, a front runner in the Smart City mission which is working closely with the government to develop 109 smart cities, can help in shaping overall vision for a place that is based on the well being of people. We work on the overall strategy of how to make a city better place, says Guy Perry, President – Cities & Strategy, Essel Infraprojects Ltd., in an exclusive interview with Elets News Network (ENN).
How Essel group is contributing to the Government of India initiative of smart cities? I am overseeing the smart city project. We go from the overall strategy of how to make a city better. We focus on the well-being of people and then try to provide all the different services and technology that are fundamental to that. Planning a city, planning a neighbourhood, building the roads, creating smart streets which we already are in the process of doing in Pune whether it’s water systems, power distribution, generation, clean power, we are actually able to provide all of these. Probably, what distinguishes us is that we can do everything to the degree that is necessary. But we can also help in shaping overall vision for a place that is based on the well-being. Ultimately, that is what cities are supposed to be for.
Which cities and states Essel group is focusing on for Smart Cities initiative of the government?
We are actually working on many different cities and in many different states, we are working on different aspects of our services. So we are focusing on water in some states, electricity in some states. For example, in Pune we are working on the upgrading of the streets. We are trying to work on that through our local partners and then we will see how we can amplify that in other cities throughout India. There is so much to do in India. We are trying to do best in India, set the barometers as high as possible and hopefully others will follow the suit because there is plenty of work to be done here. There are endless number of streets that need to be worked upon. It’s not just the big highways but it’s actually the streets that are going to touch people’s lives day in and day out. There is an unlimited demand for the services we can provide.
Where do you see citizens’ role in building Smart Cities?
It involves their participation in terms of what their wishes are. Often their wishes are very useful but sometimes we also have to take an overview. When we plan new districts, we encourage people to actually work and create a self policing environment, create an environment where they are going to have a balanced life. Community engagement is important but we look deeper. We look at how do we help people’s well being, how can we create a safe environment for them. We give them what they want, but we also give them what they need.
There are a lot of challenges in building smart cities, what kind of challenges are you facing and providing solutions for Smart Cities?
There are innumerable challenges. Right now, cities don’t have the capacity to absorb the kind of traffic that is generated or will be generated in future. So then it raises the question that the kind of vehicles being produced for India are the right vehicles or not because there is no magic bullet where we can increase the traffic flow down the street. There is no technology to do that. Maybe we can work with Indian companies perhaps with international partners, to come up with a new generation of vehicles, that is appropriate for the setting or actually create cities where instead of having to take five or six trips a day in your car, you only need one or two. And that’s the real solution because other solutions in a democracy are not going to happen. I think we need to be serious about these challenges. We need smart solutions and for that we need deeper thinking.