When the smart cities mission was launched in 2015, it held much promise for Chennai as it was one of 20 cities selected in the initial phase. Chennai was formally identified in January 2016 for a slew of projects that ranged from water conservation to pedestrianisation. While the city saw a slow start to these projects, ranking only 37 out of 87 cities when the smart cities were ranked in 2018.
However, two years later, key projects such as the Pedestrian Plaza and rolling out of smart bikes have taken place. Expansion of these initiatives are in the pipeline now, along with the launch of new efforts centered around parking management, e-bikes and water body rejuvenation.
As the scope and scale of the smart city projects grow, the various efforts undertaken have attracted their fair share of brickbats and bouquets. Citizen Matters spoke to Raj Cherubal, CEO of Chennai Smart City Limited, the SPV constituted to conceptualise and execute the projects, to have some of the concerns addressed and also seek the latest information on what is in store for the city.
In the first of this five-part series, Raj shares his ideas on what can be deemed as a “smart city”. While other nations have grappled with these ideas, the concept is relatively new to India and Chennai. With this in mind, he says that we must do what we can in terms of interventions necessary to improve the quality of life of the citizens. The interventions may be based on the creation of new infrastructure or the adoption of technology to simply certain aspects of urban living, but they must take place now in order for Indian cities to catch up with other parts of the world.
In response to the choice of locations for the project, he points out that the interventions are designed in a manner that a successful pilot in one part of the city will pave way for replication of similar efforts in other parts of the city. He adds that the focus on T Nagar is due to it being the area chosen under the Area-Based Development model adopted by all cities under the smart cities mission.
Watch our interview to find out what the larger aims of the smart city mission are for Chennai city and the means to achieve them.
[Interviewed by Laasya Shekhar ]