Schneider Electric India hosted an engaging panel discussion with subject matter experts to deliberate on India's urban infrastructure and identify the building blocks for making the government's 'Smart Cities' project a reality.
'Changing India: A Smart City Revolution' put the spotlight on the socio-economic necessities that drive the Smart City objective, turning the table on the inadequacies of our country's infrastructure and administrative mechanisms, and the skills that will guide the city planners, administrators and proponents to build and manage Smart Cities.
The contour of the discussion was shaped and led by Dr R K Misra, Founder Director, Center for Smart Cities and the panellists comprised an eclectic mix of eminent dignitaries namely Mr Nilesh Purey, Vice President, ICT, Gujarat International Finance Tec-City Co. Ltd; Mr Shivendra Nath, Superintending Engineer (Project), Naya Raipur Development Authority; Mr Manish Agarwal, Executive Director, Infrastructure Advisory, PWC India; Dr. Navanil Baruah, member of the Senior Leadership Council and Director of the Department of Neuro-Surgery at GNRC (formerly Guwahati Neurological Research Centre); Mr Anil Chaudhry, Country President & MD, Schneider Electric India; Mr Sanjiv Rai, Vice-Chair-Rosenbridges Infra IFS Ltd. Chairperson and Chief Solver-Billion Innovators; and Dr. Rahul Tongia, Fellow, Brookings India; Advisor, Smart Grid Task Force, Govt. of India, Adjunct Professor, Carnegie Mellon University.
The inaugural speech was delivered by Mr Leo Apothekar, Vice-Chairman and Independent Lead Director, Schneider Electric. Mr Apothekar said, "There are multiple components to a Smart City which need to be considered while planning such a project. These mainly include energy, mobility, water, public services and buildings & homes. India has embarked on a very exciting mission of creating Smart Cities and we are confident that contributions from all sections of the society, public and private, can make this dream a reality. Only cities can accommodate population growth and there is a need for Smart Cities."
Mr Mishra further set the context for the panel discussion and said that Smart Cities use infrastructure more efficiently and its four main pillars should be mobility, safety, cleanliness and being green.
In the course of the discussion, Mr Nilesh Purey shared his views on the skill sets that will enable city planners drive a Smart City project. He said, "We need to develop good skills sets and learn from the West, especially in the areas of administration and municipality. This is something that we have successfully implemented at GIFT. Every employee at GIFT has visited at least two countries to understand and learn best practices in this area."
Mr Shivendra Nath, who will be the first overseer of India's first Smart City, said, "We need to keep consumer happiness at the core while ensuring that whatever we do is economically viable and gives the best output."
On the importance of PPP model in determining the success of Smart Cities, Mr Manish Agarwal said, "PPP model is imperative for Smart City development and it should not be viewed just as a financing option. PPP brings in certain level of service commitment and offers immense scope for innovation."
Dr. Navanil Baruah gave a very interesting perspective stating that it is important for people to be healthy to realise the dream of Smart City. Healthcare should be offered at affordable rates without compromising on quality. North East has a lot to offer towards Smart City development as it is rich in mineral resource and hydropower."
Not to be left behind, Mr Sanjiv Rai put forth some remarkable statistics that one needs to look at in order to create a true Smart City. He said that Smart City means 10% more longevity of life compared to the benchmark, 20% more efficiency and 30% more sustainability. This will automatically result in 40% more economic activity.
Elaborating on the challenges and resolutions of energy infrastructure, Mr Rahul Tongia added, "India's energy consumption is alarmingly high. Hence, these Smart Cities need to be really different. Business as usual will not work anymore. Smart grid is a journey and should be viewed only as processes in the overall scheme of things. We need to plan our processes better and this where dialogue, democracy and government should step in."
And lastly, talking about integrating technologies in a brownfield surrounding and enmeshing loopholes to achieve energy efficiency, Mr Anil Chaudhry shared Schneider's experience as a developer of Smart Cities. He said, "Schneider is well positioned to contribute to the government's vision of creating 100 Smart Cities. We are already working on various Smart projects. The physical and virtual worlds now need to come together; integration is required."