The event kicked off in Mumbai on February 10, 2016, in the wake of the government's announcement of the first 20 cities selected for the Smart Cities Mission.
It was a day-long event that witnessed participation from over 70 distinguished speakers and a high-powered, 50-member Smart Cities Trade Mission led by Bruce Andrews, Deputy Secretary, US Department of Commerce. More than 40 mayors, commissioners and urban officials from India interacted with over 300 delegates who attended the event. Parallel B2B sessions ensured a productive outcome for both participants and local government officials interested in adopting innovative technologies for their respective cities.
The proceedings began with Pratap Padode, Founder & Director, Smart Cities Council India, welcoming everybody and laying emphasis on ´the mandatory engagement of citizens´ as a key element of the smart cities mission.
While Bruce Andrews was in India to help facilitate business partnerships between both countries, in his special address he encouraged delegates to interact with the 18 US companies present at the event. He said that the US was pleased with the recommendations of the Kelkar Committee report and looked forward to its implementation. He also highlighted the importance of protecting intellectual property rights and exhorted India to deepen its capital markets.
Further, Philip Bane, Executive Director, US Smart Cities Council, highlighted the work of the council and launched the India Readiness Guide along with Padode and a host of other dignitaries on stage.
Leocadia Zak, Director, United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), highlighted the work done by the trade body and averred that the US has the best solutions for India´s smart city projects.
Praveen Pardeshi, Principal Secretary, Government of Maharashtra, said the private sector and Government need to deliberate upon the matter and restructure certain areas.
Renato de Castro, an international expert on smart cities and Executive Director at Baumann Consultancy Network (Italy), laid stress on the importance of technology and collaboration. He picked out Singapore and St Louis as the best examples of smart cities and Rio de Janeiro for smart mobility.
A panel on ´Financing for Smart Cities´ discussed the need for projects to be bankable to ensure the economic viability of infrastructure projects. Nevertheless, the panel accepted that the special purpose vehicle (SPV) structure envisaged for the smart cities inspires confidence. It saw the need for a new set of investors for long-term infra projects.
During the discussion on ´Overcoming Challenges in Implementing Smart Cities Solutions in India´, the panellists suggested key points that could be considered while implementing smart city projects. One was the need for a level playing field and proper ecosystem pattern while implementing a smart city. Notably, the panellists agreed that the Government must curb regulatory procedures to make India smart.
In the session, ´Technological Challenges´, the panellists unanimously agreed upon the use of best technology available, but with a domestic flavour to it. Meanwhile, the session was divided among two groups; while one faction was eager to imply standardised technologies, another preferred regularisation. The tech wizards also felt the need for technology-based infrastructure, a global mantra these days.
In the session on ´Changes in Our City Governance to Enable Better Implementation of Smart Cities´, the panellists agreed upon citizen participation in decision-making, transparency in governance, procurement process and performance measurement. They laid emphasis on educating government officials for successful smart city proposals and suggested that government leaders need to know about ethical governance, partnerships and safeguarding the environment.
The session on ´Rethinking Mobility´ discussed the designing of BRTS, smart parking for growing parking congestion, car pooling and transport planning. It was recommended that the Government rethink the age-old Motor Act, owing to which innovations such as car pooling have not been successful.
The session ´Innovation Showcase´ focused on studying how to convert urban challenges into opportunities. Innovations in smart energy, mobility, healthcare and waste management were discussed. It was agreed that innovation coupled with entrepreneurship has developed places like Silicon Valley but the concept of smart cities needs even further study. Water harvesting and renewable energy were discussed at great length.
The session on ´Water Management´ deliberated upon drinking water for all and harvesting rainwater for better use. The panellists agreed that a holistic approach is required to handle water. Further, for better analytics, electricity, water and gas demand or supply would be important parameters of a smart meter.
The session ´Energy Efficiency´ focused on LED, smart street lighting, integrated BMS, renewable energy and energy storage. The panel pointed to energy as a key factor in the ´smart´ mix. They urged on the need to eliminate fossil fuels to generate electricity and reduce T&D losses by smart monitoring.
The session ´Smart Planning for Cities´ focused on preparing master plans, including smart yet sustainable elements in planning, and Greenfield vs. Brownfield development. The panellists shared that a smart, sustainable city should bring together natural environment, services, and soft and hard infrastructure. They laid emphasis on the need for urban planning solutions to be area-specific and threw light on issues such as space for hawkers and parking, which need to be addressed in urban planning. They also suggested three things to be kept in mind in master planning: Demand facility, transit-oriented facility and financial planning.
The session ´Building Safe and Resilient Cities´ deliberated on developing city resilience from natural disasters and new technologies and techniques available to better security management. The panel pointed to the use of IT and technologies for smart cities as the next level. In discussion, the need for another approach to address security was raised and disaster management where people need to be evacuated urgently.
The session ´Ambition Zero Waste´ focused on waste management technology and the Government´s mission vs. public response. The discussion started with stats on municipal waste generated and treated. As the panellists pointed out, landfills have become land hills owing to waste. They highlighted the need for a regulatory framework to gather the lifecycle of various waste products and ascertain how much of it can be recycled. Considering India will generate 10 million metric tonne by 2020, the T3 model of transport, training and technology was suggested for developing waste.
It was undoubtedly an enriching day with power-packed sessions, discussions and a platform for universal networking.