Smart Cities are also about services, not just technology: E Ravendiran

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E Ravendiran, Commissioner, Kalyan Dombivli Municipal Corporation

The development of a smart city is an idea driven by many factors, not just technology. The facilitation of good municipal services, including pedestrian-friendly roads and affordable housing, also form a major part of it, says E Ravendiran, Commissioner, Kalyan Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC), in an interview with Kartik Sharma & Poulami Chakraborty of Elets News Network (ENN). According to him, a smart city should be self-sustainable and improve the quality of life of its citizens. Excerpts:

Being the KDMC Commissioner, how do you visualise a “Smart KalyanDombivli”?

My perception of a smart KalyanDombivli is “an attitude of individual towards city.” Smart city is not merely smart infrastructure but smart behaviour as well. It means ease of living, ease of doing business, free mobility from home to stations, less pollution, more greenery, 24×7 water supply, etc. There should be transformation in the lives of citizens after implementation of smart city projects. In such a city, citizens should get municipal services at his/her fingertips. The city should also be pedestrian-friendly and pollution-free along with public transport, e-parking, employability and affordable housing as its key attributes. I can see these potentials in KDMC. The literacy rate of KDMC is very high, almost close to 90 per cent and this will help KDMC to become smart much faster than other cities. At last, a smart city also entails transforming a dormitory city into a “self-sustaining” city.

Apart from central and state funds, how else would you procure funds for raising the smart city?

Financial planning is very crucial in urban planning. There are limited sources of revenue as far as Municipal Corporation is concerned. Financial self-sustainability can be achieved by managing revenue in a most efficient manner. Leasing of Municipal properties which are lying idle will generate enormous revenue. It is true that there is a mismatch between demand and supply of various services; to provide effective services, the organisation needs an investment in manpower and technology. To overcome the aforesaid problems, involvement of private parties in the development process is important. Leveraging their experience will help the Municipal Corporation to develop the infrastructure in and around the city.

The Municipal Corporation may borrow a soft loan from HUDCO, MMRDA and other lending institutions. The leading private banks are interested to lend money to the corporation in the backdrop of the smart city project.

Smart City Presentation
Shri E Ravendiran (IAS), Municipal Commissioner, Kalyan Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC)

What do you think of citizen engagement in the development process?

Do you see any challenges on that front? Citizens are the real beneficiaries of development. Citizen engagement is very vital in planning and development process of a city. Being an end user and tax payer, they should be benefitted from development by availing services, such as adequate water supply, waste management, infrastructure etc. Therefore, it is essential to engage citizens in development process so that overall objective of development can be achieved.

Also Read: Maharashtra Easing Industry Establishment Norms for More Investments: E Ravendiran

But this process is challenging at the same time because of a trust deficit between the urban local bodies and citizens. It is a difficult task to engage citizens as they think their suggestions or opinion will not be honoured. As far as Kalyan Dombivli is concerned, majority of its population is working class, so getting them on board is a tough task. With the help of social media, we are trying to reach these citizens so that we get a better idea about how they perceive their city in terms of carrying out development.

How do you plan to acquire human resources and from where?

The Municipal Corporation has its own staff for day-to-day work; however, there is a need of capacity building. We have empanelled consultancy organisations and experts who offer their services as and when it is required. There are charitable organisations who support us in social causes, such as mass cleaning of waste, lake cleaning and conservation, and beautification of cities through CSR activity.

Do you have any plans in the areas of green building, green energy and solid waste management?

The Municipal Corporation has prepared a comprehensive plan to tackle solid waste problem in the city. We are in the process of installing decentralised biogas plants at various locations so that waste in that locality is treated there itself. We have also invited a bid for development of waste into energy through a plant having 600 tonnes capacity at Umbarde. The Municipal Corporation will propose tax benefits for green building projects. The corporation has also proposed in-house sewage treatment and solid waste management in mega township projects. We have also adopted renewable energy equipment to reduce the electricity consumptions.

Kalyan-Dombivli is getting developed as “third” Mumbai. There are various reasons for it, such as affordable housing, availability of land and connectivity to Mumbai as a workplace. Considering the linear development of Mumbai, more people tend to shift to the KalyanDombivli area

What other plans are in pipeline ? Which private firms are involved in carrying out such projects?

There are several:

  • The Municipal Corporation is working on a project with a tentative cost of approximately 100 crore. Its implementation entails preparing a DPR for City Park and Botanical Garden for which an agency has been appointed by us.
  • We also propose installation of waste-to-energy plant having incineration technology on a PPP basis at Umbarde.
  • Landscaping of 23 km of riverfront development with the help of private players, etc.
  • Amusement park at Titwala on a PPP basis.
  • Development of a 400-bed super speciality hospital, along with a 50-bed isolation hospital-cum-medical college of 100 seat capacity at Titwala with the help of state government and private players
  • Integrated road development of 117 km.

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