With the Smart Cities mission well under way, get ready for a slice of Paris in India! Three cities—Chandigarh, Puducherry and Nagpur—have attracted interest from the French who have proposed developing them as Smart Cities. Strong on aesthetics as well as energy conservation, the French model of development would also focus on the user at the centre of development.
French Consul General to India Yves Perrin says, “My concept of Smart Cities is based on at least four pillars, namely, energy, transport, water and waste management. These basic things have to be implemented first. Only then can cities be made smart.”
Another area of focus for France would be the digital domain where the country emerged as one of the early spenders. “This is an area that comes naturally to them and therefore, you may find a very strong digital infrastructure in whichever city the French associate themselves with. In the areas of traffic automation, car scanners for parking, road safety technologies, etc., you may find very high-tech solutions. Information technology will be the backbone to collate all kinds of data to make life easier for citizens,” says Pratap Padode, Founder and MD, Smart Cities Council India.
He adds that over 30 countries have evinced interest in partnering with India for the Smart Cities Mission. And since there is more than R3 lakh crore that is going to be spent on the mission, obviously, everybody would like to have a slice of this pie. One of the ways to garner a slice is to finance the master plan for the cities, like France has proposed for Chandigarh, Puducherry and Nagpur and the US for Visakhapatnam. Specifications are then evolved for creating a smart city with inputs from world-class experts and consultants, mostly from that country. These also enable companies from that country to bid for the bigger set of orders for execution and implementation, explains Padode. “It’s a win-win situation because for India, in a sense, we are getting our cities designed for 20-30 years into the future for free. And for France or for any other country, they are able to get business for their companies,” he adds.
To date, two memorandums have been signed, one of them with the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) to develop Visakhapatnam, Allahabad and Ajmer, and the other with Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD). The MoU with AFD is independent of the Smart Cities mission but not unrelated to it and a line of credit would be used to develop Nagpur, Chandigarh and Oulgaret (Puducherry)—Chandigarh already has a French connection, having been planned by noted French architect Le Corbusier while Puducherry has been a former French enclave.
Under the MoU, a technical cooperation programme will make available to Puducherry a pool of French experts from the public sector, complemented by experts from the private sector. “In a larger context, the pool of experts could rotate like a roster between the three Indian cities to which French technical assistance will be provided,” the agreement states.
French companies like Alstom, Dassault, Egis, Lumiplan, RATP Transdev and Schneider have evinced interest in the Smart Cities Mission. Egis India, the Indian arm of the French engineering major Egis Group has already won a Smart City contract in Bhubaneswar and also bid in Chandigarh — separately it has earned an important contract for the Nagpur Metro. Tenders for Puducherry and Nagpur are yet to be issued.
With Egis having worked in Paris and the Greater Paris area, one can expect “a lot of commonality between the cities we have done in France and what we will do here,” says Ashish Tandon, MD, Egis India. “Moreover, we do predictive modeling since we are looking at planning ahead for the next 20 years,” he adds.
Smart agenda for india’s cities
* More than Rs 3 lakh crore to be spent on India’s Smart Cities Mission
* More than 30 countries have shown interest in the Smart Cities Mission
* France has proposed developing Chandigarh, Puducherry & Nagpur as Smart Cities
* It proposes focusing on integrated development, urban planning, urban transport, water supply, sanitation, waste management, architecture and heritage, renewable energy, and energy efficiency
* A pool of French experts from the public sector (French municipalities, companies, urban agencies), to render assistance along with private sector experts