Interview with Janki Jethi

“Sustainability is a vital aspect of the water and waste segments”

The Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT) is an emerging global financial and IT services hub, designed to be at par with globally benchmarked business districts. It is supported by state-of-the-art infrastructure, encompassing all basic urban infrastructure elements and robust external connectivity. GIFT City is India’s first operational smart city. It acts as a common hub for global experts and practitioners in sustainable urban planning. In an interview with Smart Utilities, Janki Jethi, vice-president, GIFT City, shares her views on various smart water and waste initiatives taken for GIFT City, the role of key private players, the issues and challenges faced, and the future possibilities…

What are the various smart water and waste initiatives taken for GIFT City?

A special emphasis has been placed on sustainability measures at GIFT City as it has been designed and is being developed to meet very nascent environmentally sustainable standards for cities. Moreover, with quality of life being the primary focus, the city has been planned to create new business opportunities in a low-carbon economy, in the areas of international financial services/information technology/information technology-enabled services, and residential, recreational and social infrastructure.

As far as water supply initiatives are concerned, GIFT City acknowledges the importance of 24×7 uninterrupted and reliable water supply to all consumers. The city also aims to have minimal interruptions/breakdowns, maximum reliability, and enhanced planning and scheduling of maintenance activities along with state-of-the-art distribution automation. This will help improve consumer satisfaction and exceed regulatory standards. The city is also aiming to introduce various other initiatives such as zero liquid discharge, the “drink-from-any-tap” concept sewage collection and water treatment and recycling. Due consideration is also being given to providing water with metering facilities for construction purposes in the city. All the water infrastructure components, including the raw water pumping station, the water treatment plant and the pipeline network, have been equipped with metering facilities. Meanwhile, each and every pipeline is mapped on a supervisory control and data acquisition system as well as on a geographic information system for efficient operation and working.

Moving on to smart waste management initiatives, the solid waste management (SWM) system for the city is proposed to be designed in line with the prevailing international standards in developed countries around the world. The SWM system in GIFT City consists of an automated waste collection system (AWCS) for the segregation and treatment of waste to avoid human intervention in the best possible way, and to reduce health and environmental issues.

The waste generated from office buildings, residential, green and commercial areas, hotels, medical services, and the roadside is collected through building chutes, and transferred to a central waste handling facility through an AWCS pipeline laid inside the utility tunnel. The central waste handling facility consists of a segregation and compaction system. The waste from the air waste separator is segregated into recyclable waste and non-recyclable waste. The recyclable waste is segregated into paper and plastic, and is sent to recyclable vendors. The organic waste is converted into manure in an automatic composting system, which is used for horticulture. Meanwhile, the non-recyclable waste is treated through a plasma pyrolysis system.

Who are the key private players in the smart water and waste market?

The key international players in AWCS include Envac, Stream, AVAC, Memios and MariMatic. Meanwhile, the key players in the water market are Voltas, Veolia and Larsen & Toubro. One of the major emerging water management technology providers, Kritsnam Technologies, is doing tremendous work in the sector.

What has been the experience of private contractors with respect to smart water and waste initiatives?

Initially, the feasibility of every smart initiative was carried out by the in-house team of GIFT City, which involved the management of all stakeholders. In order to mitigate any undesirable experience with private contractors in the implementation of various activities, the tender document prepared by GIFT lists all the activities to the minutest level for implementation, including the various terms and conditions. Before any work is awarded, all the contractors are scrutinised by GIFT under the approved norms. So far, the experience with private contractors has been largely fruitful and they are an integral part of GIFT in the implementation of smart initiatives throughout the city.

What are the issues and challenges faced in the implementation of the smart water and waste initiatives?

There are various issues and challenges associated with the implementation of smart water and waste initiatives. These include reluctance of developers/customers to pay for water consumption based on actual metering, the higher cost of smart water meters in comparison to smart energy/power meters, lack of skilled labour for implementing smart devices, lack of viability for developers/businesses in terms of cost, limited understanding of how the system works, and the suitability of AWCS only in greenfield projects. All such issues and challenges will have to be addressed in order to ensure the efficient implementation of smart water and waste practices.

What are the steps being taken for addressing the issues?

Various steps are being taken to mitigate the impact of the aforementioned issues and challenges. Before on-boarding any developer in the city, GIFT shares its own ready reckoners and requirements for the construction of buildings to maintain uniformity in the city in terms of engineering utilities. This ensures that all the buildings in the city are in strict accordance with GIFT’s requirements and prevailing government norms. The GIFT Urban Development Authority is the first in the country to make it a regulatory requirement.

The benefits of implementing smart initiatives exceed the challenges posed by them. Some of the benefits of smart water practices are round-the-clock availability of water, which enables developers to focus on their core business; transparency in water billing and promotion of water conservation through water metering; and negligible water loss. The various benefits of AWCS include creation of a cleaner and more attractive city, a better working environment for waste collectors, reduced air and noise emissions due to decreased transportation needs, and less space taken up by waste collection systems in buildings.

What are the future possibilities in the smart water and waste segment?

The future course of action in the smart water and waste segment must focus on encouraging the reuse of water, reducing the cost of smart water meters, implementing water metering, advancement in measuring the amount of solid waste being generated for effective tariff pricing, and improving solid waste disposal technologies available in the market to dispose of mixed waste in an environmentally friendly manner. All such practices will give an impetus to the adoption of smart initiatives in the water and waste segment.

What are the sustainable practices that can be adopted in the waste and water segment?

Sustainability is a vital aspect of the waste and water segment. In order to promote sustainable practices, measures must be taken. Any advancement in technology must pass through the test of sustainability; all projects should focus on the utilisation of naturally available resources in their respective vicinities, especially building construction material; the focus in any project should be on the water (including sewage and solid waste) and energy sectors; a mix of all renewable energy sources must be used; and due attention must be given to waste-to-energy.