Interview with Sujeet Kumar: “A GIS-based system is at the heart of smart city infrastructure”

“A GIS-based system is at the heart of smart city infrastructure”

Advanced technological tools such as geographical information system (GIS) and management information system (MIS) are being deployed in large urban centres like Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh) for efficient and economical administration. These systems effectively monitor the city’s civic infrastructure such as the water supply and sewerage network, and improve the financial and operational performance of the urban local body. In an exclusive interview with Smart Utilities, Sujeet Kumar, vice-president and head, East Asia, utilities and geospatial business unit, Cyient Limited, discussed the scope, progress and key benefits of the GIS and MIS project being implemented for the Varanasi Nagar Nigam (VNN).

Please elaborate on the project Cyient has taken up for VNN.

Varanasi, the spiritual capital of India, is on its way to becoming a world-class city. A GIS-based comprehensive and integrated data set has become essential for the efficient, economical and meaningful administration (including tax and asset management) of large urban centres like Varanasi.

For the National Mission for Clean Ganga, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) had provided loan to Jal Nigam and the Jal Kal Vibhag (JKV) in 2005 for the Institutional Development Programme (IDP) in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. One of the major objectives of the IDP is asset management and revenue enhancement for VNN. As part of the IDP, VNN has appointed Cyient Limited as the consultant for developing MIS and related works for Varanasi. The overall objective of the assignment is to develop GIS, MIS and decision support system for VNN and its wing JKV. The specific objectives of the assignment include preparation of the GIS base map of the city such as the water and wastewater network using geo-referenced satellite data and detailed survey, and creation of a geo-database for all properties in the municipal area.

What will be the benefits of the project for the public department?

  • The main objective of the project is sustainable management, operations, and maintenance of the current and future water supply and sewerage assets of both JKV-VNN and the Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam (UPJN) Ganga Pollution Prevention Unit (GPPU), Varanasi.
  • It will improve the delivery of water supply and sewage services to the people of Varanasi.
  • It will strengthen the organisational and management measures, training/capacity development, and infrastructure enhancement.
  • It will develop a system for utility asset management and planning through GIS-enabled asset management planning, user connection mapping, and the development of operations and maintenance manuals for key water supply and sewage assets of JKV.
  • It will improve and ease the monitoring and inventory of sewage treatment plants and related assets operated by UPJN GPPU.
  • The project also aims to upgrade soft and hard infrastructure and equipment through MIS and GIS development, and a robust GIS data centre to operate the GIS/MIS in a sustainable manner.
  • Through this project, revenue will increase multifold due to transparency in the billing system, the updated database of all commercial and residential properties of Varanasi, and an effective tax assessment system.
  • It will ensure better control and monitoring of unauthorised connections and accountability for bill collection.
  • The citizens of Varanasi will have easy access to information about their utility bills and taxes, and they will be able to make payments online.

What is the timeline for completing this project? How long you will run the operations of the project before handing it over to VNN officials?

The overall duration of the project is three years. In the first year, the project involves developing water and wastewater utility assets, property/consumer database, GIS application with various modules and the remaining two years are for operations, support and maintenance.

How are you planning to develop the solution for VNN?

Cyient has deployed multiple teams onsite and offshore to simultaneously run software development and field survey activities. We have initiated multiple field surveys to create a geo-referenced database of water and wastewater utility assets, and compile a consumer and property database. Further, we will utilise a proven GIS platform to develop the web GIS applications, reports and dashboards.

How can MIS and GIS help in developing smart cities in India?

The growing role of ICT has taken the adoption of geospatial technologies to the next level. A GIS-based decision support system is at the heart of smart city infrastructure. The concept of a command and control centre to plan and manage all city, civic and citizen services is based on GIS-based awareness, which significantly boosts efficiency in operations.

GIS has become an enabler across the smart city sub-systems. It has transformed energy efficiency monitoring, transportation planning, public safety management, as well as educational establishments. Geo-enabling city-critical data with a spatial connotation provides the connection with the real world and improves decision-making by city administrators. When spatial data is merged with MIS, it provides the ability to make informed decisions by visualising and analysing GIS models in the latest technologies.

What are some of the unique GIS/MIS projects implemented by Cyient?

Cyient has a strong and diverse customer base for GIS/MIS in India acquired over two decades. It ranges from state governments to municipalities, private utilities to state electricity boards. The company has to its credit some of the most successful, award-winning and complex GIS implementation projects.

What are the latest GIS/MIS trends in the Indian and international markets?

For the past two decades, every city has generated huge amounts of valuable data from every operational department including municipal, urban, land, police and traffic. However, this data cannot be used to provide spatial insights or spatial connectivity to give the accurate location. Geospatial technologies connect it to the real world space and increase the understanding of city administrators so that they can measure and monitor every aspect of the data.

In an urban development context, for all sub-systems to work as a whole, a spatial connect is very much needed and it can be achieved only with a GIS-enabled solution. MIS-GIS technologies are mostly part of the government’s investment services. The main aim is to assist the local authorities in properly planning, assigning and managing different projects. This can be achieved through the integration of MIS, GIS and the workflow software application used by the relevant departments. It has tremendous value and is used for monitoring territories and analysing trends.

For instance, a forest department can analyse details such as forest fires and encroachment in real time. For most government schemes, be it slum development or monitoring water bodies, use of the spatial component for analysis and decision-making is critical. Geospatial technologies enable the government authorities to provide a new level of service to both businesses and the public. Spatial and non-spatial information and associated technologies are a vital element of sustainable urban and regional development. One of the major requirements of urban development is accurate and timely geospatial information, which can be used in multiple ways, such as digital mapping of various urban development and city planning applications.