Vishakhapatnam, now called Vizag, the port city will be the first smart city of India in making through efficient services provided to the citizens and thereby increasing their satisfaction level. M Hari Narayan, Commissioner, Greater Vishakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC), tells about its finer aspect in an exclusive interview with Sudheer Goutham of Elets News Network (ENN). Excerpts:
What are the projects that have been taken up to turn Vishakhapatnam into a complete smart city? What is the current status of the projects?
Under Indian smart cities mission, Vishakhapatnam smart city project’s focus is on retrofitting a selected area within the city known as Area-Based Development (ABD). In addition, projects at pan-city level has also been taken up. Vizag Smart City ABD area lies along the waterfront, towards the centre of the city and covers around 1650 acres. The projects focus is multi- sectoral. The emphasis is on creating holistic development of the selected area such that it creates livable neighbourhoods and catalyses the development of other areas. Projects in the areas of core infrastructure, e-governance, disaster mitigation, mobility, healthy lifestyles, education, monitoring cities through command and control center, disable-friendly cities, retrofitting existing parks, new parks for kids with special needs etc have been included.
All projects are in various stages ranging from design development to vendor and stakeholder consultations to preparation of Request For Proposals (RFPs) for project implementation. Although the goal is to start demonstrating projects on ground, but my focus is also to get the right solutions to the citizens.
What are the e-governance initiatives taken up in Vishakhapatnam on lines of Digital India programme?
GVMC leverages multiple platforms to communicate – its website, mobile app and social platforms (facebook and twitter). Grievance redressal and feedbacks/suggestions are key communication areas. GVMC’s website and its mobile app provided for online payments of around 6 taxes, enabling more and more tax payers residing abroad to pay their taxes, which led to 125 per cent increase in online tax payments in 2015.
Current Solid waste management systems includes mechanised cleaning, tippers, street cleaning machines, compactors, sensor based vehicle tracking system etc.
With a view to enable an intelligent, data driven and people centric smart city, the pan city proposal (as part of Vizag’s winning smart city proposal) is a single proposal that combines effective e-governance with enhanced disaster management system. Being closely interconnected sectors, it ensures e-services, effective city administration and emergency services.
Due to the fact that the city is frequently hit by natural disasters warrants, an emergency action plan which mitigates the impact on human lives, city assets and economic activities is in place. It is a ‘Disaster Management System’ (DMS) built on a strong ICT infrastructure planned with pan-city solution. The same system will be leveraged during non-emergency days to strengthen e-governance.
Monitoring services such as energy, water, transportation, citizen interaction, public safety etc through this system will not only improve the city services, it will also ensure the system remains functional and ready to handle emergencies at any given point.
GVMC has already established an eight-seater Command Center in its main office. The center was established in July 2016. GVMC is now in process of developing state of the art Command and Communication Center. This was also proposed in Vizag smart city proposal. RFP for the same is under final touches as we speak.
What are some of the new initiatives in the area of smart transportation and waste management systems in Vishakhapatnam?
Vizag initiated and implemented many aspects of smart transportation prior to Smart City Mission. Our focus has been to provide and enhance public transportation and also develop infrastructure for non-motorised transportation – aligning strongly with minimising dependency on private vehicle, fuel efficiency and environmental stewardship.
In addition, GVMC has taken up projects under smart cities for smart mobility. This includes public bike sharing, dedicated pedestrian and cycle tracks in selected streets in ABD, shared streets in ABD, Provision of new bus-stops with digital information display and GPS tracking system installed on 110 buses, e-rickshaws in ABD.
Current solid waste management systems includes mechanised cleaning, tippers, street cleaning machines, compactors, sensor based vehicle tracking system etc.
Vizag has been prone to natural calamities like flood and suffered devastating affects, what steps have been undertaken to deal with it? What plans are in place to develop it into a smart city?
GVMC has been implementing UN Development programme related to urban disaster risk reduction. Under this programme, Hazard Risk and Vulnerability Analysis (HRVA) study was conducted and categorised city into highmedium-low categories based on hazard risk and various types of vulnerabilities.
City Disaster Management Plan was developed as part of District Disaster Management plan, in which specific action plans are prepared as part for specific disasters like cyclones and tsunami. To provide early warning messages about disasters an early warning system is already being developed based on web based SMS alerting.
Climate change adaption and disaster risk reduction principles are being incorporated in various development plans.
UNDP has selected Visakhapatnam in second phase development “developing resilient cities through risk reduction in the context of climate change and disaster.
While Vizag is a beautiful city with hillocks on three sides and sea on one side, tell us about the steps taken up to deal with pollution due to growing industrialisation?
Air pollution monitoring system is in place. It monitors air pollution at various sites which are integrated into existing command center. Post Hud Hud cyclone, massive tree plantation drive was initiated in Vizag. This effort is still ongoing with a goal to have tree-lined streets and promoting carbon neutrality by increasing the green cover through native tree plantation and introducing green spaces in the City. GVMC maintains plantations across the city through its horticulture wing.
Other initiatives include ‘vehicle free zone’ and no vehicle day on every Monday at GVMC property to promote usage of public transportation and reduce air pollution. Beach Road, which is a major tourist destination, is made ‘Vehicle free road’ or pedestrian promenade and cycle friendly road – every morning for 2 hours on weekdays and for four hours in morning over weekends.