An ambitious project as smart city not only requires hefty investment but also good governance along with proper planning. Bidhannagar is one of the shortlisted cities for the smart city project in the country. To know its future development plans and challenges of the city, Ritika Bisht and Anupam Gupta, Governance Today, talked to Pawan Kadyan, IAS, Commissioner, Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation. Edited excerpts:

Pawan Kadyan, IAS
Pawan Kadyan, IAS Commissioner, Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation

Bidhannagar has been named as one of cities from West Bengal that would be developed as a smart city. How are you planning to go forward with this aim as it is certainly a difficult task to develop smart cities in India?

A city needs basic infrastructure and basic municipal services as prerequisites for building on to them the technology layer to become smart city. Therefore, Bidhannagar is in an advantageous position compared to most other cities when it comes to becoming a smart city. We plan to build on our existing infrastructure and services based on the priorities of our residents to co-create with them a smarter Bidhannagar. Creation of investment opportunities in our progressive city, our robust implementation framework and pooling of city resources under the unanimous leadership of our elected representatives shall be important in this progress to create the 21st century Bidhannagar.

Can you brief us about the current work that is being undertaken in Bidhannagar as a part of smart city project?

We have recently submitted our duly approved Smart City Proposal (SCP) to Government of India and at this stage we are in the process of developing detailed business models to showcase the attractive investment opportunities in our city during the upcoming Bengal Global Business Summit in January 2016, apart from framing the Articles of Association (AoA) for the proposed Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to be set up for implementation of the Mission.

How can IT inclusion ease the journey of realizing the smart city dream?

The role of IT is integral to becoming smarter and better governed in the current stage of urban development not just in India but across the globe. Internet of Things (IoT) based technology applications would be key in pan-city and smart area development. IT based solutions help reduce costs while also ensuring sustainability and inclusiveness.

According to you what will it take to help cities in deploying solutions for modern urban infrastructure?

The realization of the need for innovation in modern urban spaces to develop sustainable solutions has dawned upon most cities and their citizens. Development of smart cities is not just the responsibility or prerogative of city administration. Private sector participation and citizens’ ownership of smart solutions is crucial for tangible success of the Mission objectives, and especially for creation of modern urban infrastructure.

Smart governance, smart housing, smart mobility, smart security, smart water & waste management are just some of the elements of a smart city. Do you think that public living in a smart city would be able to have access to smart features without paying hefty amount for the same?

Yes, indeed. Smart ICT based solutions would allow higher revenues to be generated from new business models and streams of revenue generation such as higher realization of existing taxes and user charges, economies of scale, plugged leakages, increased efficiency of resource utilization, decreased costs of service delivery to the Municipal Corporation, and frugal innovation. The additional burden on citizens, if any, would not be high.

Do you think it is possible to achieve the smart city dream with the current financial assistance?

Though such financial assistance is important to achieve the target but it is not sufficient as it takes much more resource to become a smart city. Its actual significance lies is its nature rather than its quantum as the financial assistance of the Government is dependent on the performance of the city in the ‘City Challenge.’ It is a mark of the city’s competence and a certification of its potential and creditworthiness. In this way it is critical for the city’s capability to raise required funds for development as a smart city from other sources rather than depending on the quantum of assistance being provided alone. Therefore, it is possible to achieve the dream with this assistance.

Can you tell us about any future projects (smart city projects) which would be taking place in Bidhannagar?

The projects mentioned as part of Bidhannagar’s Smart City Proposal to Government of India cover all dimensions and parameters of the Mission components. For instance, Comprehensive Municipal e-Governance, both in the internal administration of the organization and in its interface with citizens, is one of projects proposed under the Mission.

Public Private Partnership definitely plays a key role to a massive project as smart city. Do you think that there are any challenges when it comes to working with private players?

The proposed SPV would be an entity comprising competent professionals recruited from the market to implement the Mission. This would give it a perspective to understand potential private players on one hand and on the other would also allow the private players interacting with the SPV and the Municipal Corporation to understand the intricacies of government and the history, culture and local developmental concerns of the city. Such mutual understanding is crucial and could be a challenge. Also, given the nascent stage of the concept of Indian smart cities, negotiations on the various models of implementation of different PPP projects could be another challenge.