Trans­form­ing Puducherry into a Smart City

A high-value global tourism and her­itage des­ti­na­tion comes of age.

Power Watch India - - SPECIAL FOCUS - By A Shankar The au­thor is Na­tional Di­rec­tor and Head of Op­er­a­tions – Strate­gic Con­sult­ing, JLL In­dia.

Puducherry, for­merly called Pondicherry, was his­tor­i­cally a French colony and still re­tains much of the ethos of its French her­itage and ar­chi­tec­ture to­day. This ex­tremely fa­mous tourist des­ti­na­tion is renowned for its long beach prom­e­nades, large boule­vards, colour­ful houses re­flect­ing both French and Tamil ar­chi­tec­ture. The city has a highly-or­gan­ised grid pat­tern of streets, fas­ci­nat­ing her­itage mon­u­ments and its very own Tamil precinct. All these facets have, over time, en­sured that Puducherry con­tin­ues to stand apart – as a tourist lo­ca­tion and as a unique city in In­dia. With Auroville be­ing an im­por­tant mag­net, the city recorded 1.07 lakh for­eign tourists in 2016 ac­count­ing for 11% an­nual growth. while 13 lakh do­mes­tic tourists in the same year ac­counted for 7% an­nual growth.

The Smart City Boost

Im­por­tantly, Puducherry is now a con­tender in Round 3 of the Smart Cities Mis­sion com­pe­ti­tion of the Gov­ern­ment of In­dia. The Smart Cities Mis­sion is in­tended to drive eco­nomic growth and im­prove the qual­ity of life of peo­ple in the iden­ti­fied and se­lected cities. The modus operandi is to en­able lo­cal devel­op­ment and har­ness tech­nol­ogy to cre­ate smart out­comes.

100 cities were short-listed, 20 cities were se­lected as part of Round 1 of the Smart Cities com­pe­ti­tion, an­other 13 cities were added in the fast-track round and 27 more in Round 2. The re­main­ing cities will par­tic­i­pate in Round 3.

In the case of Puducherry, an ear­lier pro­posal sub­mit­ted for the Oul­garet Mu­nic­i­pal­ity was not short-listed be­cause it had fo­cused on ‘green­field’ devel­op­ment at a cost of Rs 5,660 crore and was deemed fi­nan­cially vi­able. How­ever, the gov­ern­ment has now iden­ti­fied Puducherry City area for par­tic­i­pa­tion in Round 3. For the pro­posal preparation, the Gov­ern­ment of Puducherry has ap­pointed JLL In­dia’s Strate­gic Con­sult­ing di­vi­sion, which has al­ready worked for seven other cities iden­ti­fied un­der the Smart Cities mis­sion. Of these, Bhubanesh­war ranked #1 in Round 1, Am­rit­sar ranked #1 in Round 2 and both Chen­nai and Vado­dara were se­lected in the top 60 cities.

The Puducherry pro­posal is cur­rent un­der­way at full steam, and has recorded di­rect and in­di­rect en­gage­ment with cit­i­zens via phys­i­cal en­gage­ment, ar­ti­cles in lead­ing dailies, Smart City ban­ners, ra­dio and tele­vi­sion an­nounce­ments, work­shops, sem­i­nars, so­cial me­dia, com­pe­ti­tions and sur­veys. This is im­por­tant, since the Smart Cities Mis­sion is all about ur­ban trans­for­ma­tion with an

em­pha­sis on ci­ti­zen en­gage­ment. In ac­cor­dance with the in­puts of ci­ti­zen and key stake­hold­ers in Puducherry, the main boule­vard and its sur­round­ing ar­eas mea­sur­ing about 1500 acres have been se­lected for ma­jor retrofitting-based up-gra­da­tion. Log­i­cally, the Puducherry pro­posal pri­mar­ily fo­cuses on tourism, with high­light projects such as:

Ex­ten­sion and beau­ti­fi­ca­tion of the beach prom­e­nade

No-ve­hi­cle zones with smart park­ing, e-rick­shaws and an in­tel­li­gent trans­port sys­tem Real-time air qual­ity mon­i­tor­ing Beau­ti­fi­ca­tion of the Grand Canal, etc.

The Union Tourism Min­istry has also ap­proved an al­lo­ca­tion of Rs 100 crore for var­i­ous tourist cir­cuit projects un­der the ‘Swadesh Dar­shan’ scheme.

De­mo­graph­ics and City Plan­ning

The Puducherry Mu­nic­i­pal­ity cov­ers over 19.26 sq. km., com­prises of eight con­stituen­cies and ac­counts for a pop­u­la­tion of 2.44 lakh. The city is well-con­nected by roads to other towns and cities through­out In­dia. East Coast Road con­nects Puducherry with Chen­nai (north) and Cud­dalore (south), while NH45A con­nects to Villupu­ram and NH66 to Tin­di­vanam.

Be­ing a coastal city, Puducherry has a lim­ited num­ber of train routes to de­pend on. Nev­er­the­less, it does have train con­nec­tiv­ity to Chen­nai, Man­galuru, Tiruchi­rap­palli, Ben­galuru, Kolkata, Thiru­vanan­tha­pu­ram, Bhubanesh­war, Howrah, Tiru­pati, New Delhi and Mum­bai via Villupu­ram. A ded­i­cated air­port, ex­pected to be op­er­a­tional in 3Q 2017, will con­nect Puducherry to nearby cities within 500 km to boost the in­flux of for­eign tourist and fuel in­dus­trial in­vest­ment to Puducherry.

No­tably, city plan­ning in Puducherry was largely in­flu­enced by its water­ways. Its ear­lier set­tle­ments were built on higher lands, while the low lands - or flood plains - were used for agri­cul­ture. The city’s canals were built as source of wa­ter sup­ply to its set­tle­ments. In the Puducherry of to­day, the French Quar­ter is sep­a­rated from the Tamil town by the multi-func­tional Grand Canal. Puducherry’s Smart City pro­posal in­cludes re­viv­ing these water­ways and mak­ing the Grand Canal a vi­brant public space for tourists and cit­i­zens. About 1300 build­ings within the boule­vard area have been iden­ti­fied as her­itage build­ings. These struc­tures are very valu­able for un­der­stand­ing this unique re­gion’s ar­chi­tec­tural evo­lu­tion, and must be pre­served for pos­ter­ity. The her­itage town is em­i­nently suited for ex­plo­ration by cy­cle and by foot, and pro­vides fas­ci­nat­ing ac­cess to Puducherry’s cul­tural history. The Smart City pro­posal there­fore places em­pha­sis on a Cy­cle Shar­ing sys­tem and ‘pedes­tri­an­i­sa­tion’ of Nehru Street and Beach Prom­e­nade. It also in­cludes dis­abled-friendly foot­paths along the 130 km road net­work within the area ear­marked for smart city im­ple­men­ta­tion to pro­mote walk­ing.

Apart from these her­itage and tourism-fo­cused ini­tia­tives, the pro­posal also iden­ti­fies var­i­ous as­pects for im­prov­ing the ba­sic civic in­fra­struc­ture, in­clud­ing:

En­sur­ing 24x7 wa­ter and elec­tric­ity sup­ply Har­vest­ing so­lar en­ergy

Source aug­men­ta­tion of wa­ter and re­cy­cling of waste wa­ter

Solid waste man­age­ment, etc.

Across Puducherry, the Smart City pro­posal will fo­cus on ur­ban mo­bil­ity via non-mo­torised trans­port (NMT) and ini­tia­tives like in­tel­li­gent traf­fic and park­ing man­age­ment, a cy­cle shar­ing net­work, a public transit cor­ri­dor and a city con­trol com­mand cen­tre. All this will be sup­ported by a ded­i­cated mo­bile ‘city app’ to pro­mote smarter and more con­ve­nient tourism as well as pro­vide GIS map­ping of all of the city’s util­i­ties. The ap­prox­i­mate cost for the Puducherry Smart City pro­posal is es­ti­mated to be Rs 1800 crore. It has been for­mu­lated to en­sure con­ver­gence with sev­eral gov­ern­ment schemes such as Atal Mis­sion for Re­ju­ve­na­tion and Ur­ban Trans­for­ma­tion (AMRUT), Swachh Bharat Mis­sion, Dig­i­tal In­dia, Safe City Pro­ject, In­te­grated Power Devel­op­ment Scheme, So­lar Mis­sion and Hous­ing for All.

To sum­marise

The Smart City vi­sion for Puducherry is to trans­form the city into a global tourism des­ti­na­tion by lever­ag­ing its her­itage, cul­tural, spir­i­tual and ed­u­ca­tional ad­van­tages. It also seeks to en­hance the qual­ity of life of the cit­i­zens by pro­vid­ing ef­fi­cient ur­ban mo­bil­ity, smart civic in­fra­struc­ture, af­ford­able ur­ban hous­ing, smart ser­vice de­liv­ery and par­tic­i­pa­tive de­ci­sion-mak­ing.

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