Technology Strides: Key initiatives for smart water and waste management

Key initiatives for smart water and waste management

To support a growing urban population and address challenges in service delivery, smart cities in India have been incorporating technologies such as smart meters, geographic information systems (GIS), GPS, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems and smart bins into their service delivery mechanisms. These technologies are aimed at improving water supply coverage, curtailing non-revenue water and making solid waste management more efficient by monitoring waste generation and promoting segregation at source. Some of the high-technology solutions for the water and waste sector are digital meters and sensors, and SCADA systems.

Smart solutions

Smart cities are increasingly relying on GIS to improve the efficiency of their water supply system. GIS is a computer-based tool that helps in the collection, storage, processing, analysis and electronic presentation of spatial data in the form of digitalised images of aerial views or published maps. Further, the use of SCADA enables remote monitoring of the water supply distribution system and its various process parameters such as water quality (pH, turbidity and residual chlorine), process variables (flow level and pressure) and control elements (electric actuators for valves). This not only helps in managing the issue of inequitable water distribution, but also reduces the number of complaints.

Various utilities have undertaken projects to replace conventional meters with smart metering solutions. Smart meters enable them to accurately measure the quantity of water being supplied to each consumer and improve revenues. With respect to consumers, automatic meter reading systems ensure transparency by eliminating faulty meter readings. In March 2019, tenders were invited to install SCADA water meters. The meters are expected to ensure proper water utilisation and billing. Another solution for smart waste management is the GPS-based vehicle tracking system. It plays an important role in optimising the transportation of garbage. The system equips all transportation vehicles of a particular corporation with a surveillance system that provides real-time tracking. Moreover, it enables the civic agencies to monitor the actual pick-up time of waste from geo-tagged bins and the time taken to dump waste at yards. A number of cities including Kota, Udaipur, Jaipur, Indore, Vijayawada, Coimbatore and Nagpur have started using GIS and GPS for tracking municipal solid waste. The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), for instance, provides complete end-to-end automation and monitoring of waste collection and management. The PMC uses cutting-edge technologies such as GPS and IoT sensors along with innovative mobile and web applications to improve ground-level mechanisms for waste collection and ensure efficient processing and recycling of waste.

Smart bins are also being deployed to clear waste in a systematic manner. These bins are installed with sensors that send out a signal once the bin fills up to the brim. This signal is communicated to contractors/corporations on a regular basis to ensure timely clearance. In July 2018, Surat installed 43 smart underground garbage bins with sensors wherein each bin had the capacity to hold 1.5 tonnes of waste. Meanwhile, the sensors attached to the bins can send alerts to the control room as soon as the bin is 70 per cent full. Another noteworthy development under the Smart Cities Mission is the installation of waste-to-energy (WtE) plants, which serve the dual purpose of eliminating waste and generating energy from it. These WtE plants can be set up within a span of six months at existing landfill sites as they do not require a green clearance. In February 2019, the South Delhi Municipal Corporation inaugurated three projects at Punjabi Bagh – a biomethanation plant to produce electricity and manure from municipal solid waste, an aerobic composter for converting wet waste into manure, and an effluent treatment plant for using the drain water for irrigating parks.

The way forward

Indore was named the country’s cleanest city for the third consecutive year in 2019. This can largely be attributed to the zero-waste townships and complexes in the city that have deployed various smart solutions in order to better manage waste disposal and water supply. Since 2016, Indore has successfully eliminated garbage dumps, ensured 100 per cent household waste segregation and converted waste into usable products such as compost and fuel. It plans to create another waste-free locality to retain the tag of the cleanest city. Such models will go a long way in encouraging other utilities to adopt similar techniques to achieve smart water and waste management.