Cementing Ties with Smart Cities: Koh Lin Ji

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Koh Lin Ji, Group Director of the state-run Building and Construction Authority (BCA) of Singapore

As India readies to develop 100 Smart Cities, Singapore companies see a huge business opportunity for themselves, says Koh Lin Ji, Group Director of the state-run Building and Construction Authority (BCA) of Singapore, in conversation with Prathiba Raju of Elets News Network (ENN)

How do you view India’s 100 Smart Cities project?

Singapore is in the 50th year of bilateral relationship with India. With the 100 Smart Cities project, we get wide business opportunities and can work with India even more closely. We get both the nations’ citizens to work with each other on different projects. Singapore sees this as a robust business opportunity, as varied firms in clean energy, construction have the expertise in building Smart Cities. Since the announcement of 100 Smart Cities and 500 cities under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) plans, Singapore companies see a bigger business space. We are looking forward to work in many projects. It is an opportunity to work on macro level to resolve urban problem and combat climate change. For the past 50 years, Singapore has accumulated sufficient amount of expertise in sustainable urban solution where we can plan, build and maintain well to make a city liveable and are keen to associate with the Indian projects.

What are the key points which India has to concentrate on during the planning of Smart Cities?

Long-term planning is a key factor in creation of a Smart City. Second comes the data, as detailed planning could happen only when we have proper data. There is a need to collect sufficient real time data through ICT tools. With real time data, the planners could create various models, which can foresee if there is a climate change and its impacts. We could also have preventive measures. Smart Cities planning needs smart people, who can appreciate and solve problems. Most important factor is proper and transparent governance, without which you cannot take things forward.

In India, we have a three-tier government system where the Centre has engaged the state and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) in Smart City competition. Do you think it’s a correct approach?

There is no right or wrong approach. In India, the three tiers of central government, state government and ULBs will need a proper coordination. The primary focus should be a pragmatic approach with longer view. A collective approach is needed and one can’t be a purist and jump to a decision immediately. As far as Smart Cities is concerned, the roadmap by the Central Government is clear, but it might take time, maybe in five years or 25 years, eventually it will be there. Cities can’t be built overnight. For example, Singapore had taken a lot of time to evolve as a Smart City and we want to earn the status of a smart nation. We had every detail on the paper and we worked accordingly with a robust planning.

How is BCA engaged with 100 Smart Cities initiative?

We want to collaborate with the Smart City project and make sustainable environment in India by 2025. BCA is a platform for stakeholders from both public and private sectors in Singapore and Asia Pacific. At present, Singapore’s Subarana Jurong are working out to develop and bring in a new green smart capital, Amaravati (Andhra Pradesh). It will be a new smart green capital. Suvarna Jurong has come out with concept plan for 7,325 sq.kms. Early this month, a detailed plan for 120 kms has been submitted to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu. The Singapore Government is working to develop the core city of Amaravati. It is currently at the planning level. When it comes to actual implementation, BCA will ensure the buildings constructed are smart and green. Apart from this, the 100 Smart Cities and 500 Amrut cities have mammoth business opportunities and we are working with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) as weII.

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