Setting an Example: GIFT City to serve a model for other smart cities

GIFT City to serve a model for other smart cities

The Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City) has been included in the Smart City Mission Statement and Guidelines as a model city in the greenfield category. GIFT city has deployed several advanced technologies across different sectors in order to become future ready. The successful implementation of projects can serve as an example for other cities under the Smart Cities Mission (SCM). They can learn from the experience of GIFT city and deploy similar technologies to achieve efficiency in their operations.

About GIFT city

It is a first-of-its-kind model city in India, which has been conceptualised as a global financial and IT services hub located between Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar. The aim is to reform the district, which comprises high quality residential, commercial and open-space facilities, by leveraging its land and real estate potential.

GIFT City is an integrated development model that spreads on 886 acres of land with 62 million square feet of built-up area. Of the total built-up area, 42 million square feet is for commercial use, 14 million square feet for residential use and the remaining 6 million square feet is for social use. It includes office spaces, residential apartments, schools, hospitals, hotels, clubs, retail and various recreational facilities. The city consists of an exclusive domestic area, a multi-service special economic zone and an international financial services centre. When fully developed, the total population density of the city is expected to be 15,000 people per square km, which will translate into direct and indirect employment opportunities for 100,000 people.

The city is being developed on a public-private partnership basis. Gujarat International Finance Tec-City Company Limited (GIFTCL) has been incorporated as a joint venture between Gujarat Urban Development Company Limited and Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services for developing the city. At present, construction work on the project is in full swing. In fact, one-fourth of the utilities have already been operationalised. The project is now expected to be completed by 2035, instead of the earlier scheduled timeline of 2026.

Model infrastructural developments

The city authority aims to tap the country’s huge financial services potential. This will require extensive infrastructure planning, designing and engineering using the latest technologies. It envisions a “digging-free city” with all the utilities in a tunnel across the city. For this, a 25 km long, 7.5 metre deep and 7.5 metre wide “utility tunnel” has been planned. Similar tunnels/trenches can be developed in other cities too. These tunnels will not only eliminate the need to excavate roads for future repair and maintenance, but will also accommodate all the utilities including power cables, raw water supply pipelines, a water treatment plant (WTP), a treated water supply pipeline from the WTP to various developments, chilled water supply from the district cooling pipe (DCP) to various developments and a return pipeline to the DCP, information and communication technology cables, automated waste collection pipelines, and fire hydrant water pipelines. As of November 2019, 6 km of the tunnel work stands completed.

Since conventional waste management systems have a negative impact on the environment and are both cost and labour intensive, GIFT city has deployed automated waste collection (AWC) systems, wherein waste is thrown into a disposal chute and water is sucked through pipes at a speed of 90 km per hour. Further, plasma technology has been deployed for wastewater treatment. It is being developed to minimise human intervention, space requirement and the adverse impact on health. The deployment of AWC systems is in line with the vision to make GIFT city a zero-discharge city.

With the aim of providing an uninterrupted, energy efficient and sustainable air-conditioning system to the occupants, a district cooling system has been planned as part of the city’s smart infrastructure. The system conserves up to 30 per cent energy as compared to traditional air-conditioning systems, reduces maintenance costs, improves air quality, and reduces noise, global warming, CO2 emissions and the heat island effect. Phase I of the district cooling system has been operational since March 2015. In addition, the city has been working to increase the share of renewable energy in its total energy mix. In order to make WTPs and sewage treatment plants (STPs) efficient in terms of power requirement, variable frequency drives (VFDs) are being used for pumps/blowers to control the motor speed by varying the frequency of power being sent to the motor. A VFD not only minimises power costs, but also extends the life of the pump. The GIFT City project also aims to ensure 99.99 per cent power reliability, translating into 5.3 minutes of outage per annum. To this end, the development of a power control centre has been contemplated. The project also intends to develop leading edge infrastructure, services and platforms, and offer financial enterprises a significant competitive advantage both regionally and globally. A central command and control centre has been set up in the city to monitor and manage its infrastructure.

Currently, water infrastructure in many cities faces several issues including intermittent water supply, non-availability of water meters, cumbersome data collection methods, unavailability of a water pipeline network, high percentage of unaccounted-for water, and the lack of awareness about the use of smart products. The project aims to provide drinkable tap water in the city. It has promised to provide perennial water supply with the construction of three barrages on the Sabarmati river. In addition, automated water meters have been introduced and leak detection techniques have been adopted for its water supply systems. The adoption of similar techniques in other cities can go a long way in improving the state of water infrastructure in the country.

While the government has introduced several programmes and schemes to improve the country’s sewerage network (such as the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation, the Namami Gange programme and the SCM), the segment still grapples with a number of issues. The existing sewerage infrastructure in most cities is characterised by obsolete and faulty pipeline networks, insufficient treatment capacity, suboptimal capacity utilisation, inability of STPs to cater to the peak load and treat the sewage for reuse, etc. The steps that can be taken to improve the sewerage infrastructure include the reuse of treated sewage to reduce the demand for fresh water; use of treated sewage for irrigation, flushing and heating and cooling systems; creation of awareness about these methods and techniques; mapping of the sewage collection pipeline and manholes on a geographic information system-based monitoring system, etc.

Besides infrastructure-related issues, getting timely approvals for the construction of projects remains one of the biggest challenges in many cities. In this regard, having a single-window clearance regime is the need of the hour for both developers and consumers. Such a clearance regime could go a long way in reducing the time required in construction and transfer of possession to unit holders. The GIFT Urban Development Authority and the GIFT Notified Committee have been constituted by the Gujarat government to act as single-window clearance agencies for all the projects being implemented under GIFT City.

Future ready

Infrastructure development is at the centre of the GIFT city project and it is expected to play a pivotal role in supporting the business environment and quality of life in the city. A combination of measures is being taken in the city aimed at infrastructure development, deployment of state-of-the-art technology and adoption of global best practices in service delivery. These initiatives are expected to provide an international standard of working and living to the residents.

Based on a presentation by Janki Jethi, Vice President, GIFT City, at a recent India Infrastructure conference