December 2021

The waste sector has experienced greater penetration of information technology in management practices over the past few years. Urban local bodies (ULBs) have deployed new technologies such as smart bins, GPS trackers for garbage pickup trucks, sensors, flow meters and SCADA control systems for better asset management and service delivery. Big cities such as Delhi, Ahmedabad, Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru have successfully deployed smart waste management infrastructure. Meanwhile, smaller cities such as Indore, Bhopal and Surat have started showing rapid improvement in waste management parameters.

Industrial units are also shifting to advanced membrane-based technologies to improve their effluent treatment capabilities, reduce dependence on freshwater resources, and manage operational costs.

Further, a greater emphasis is being laid on door-to-door waste collection, waste segregation at source, decentralised wastewater treatment, waste-to-energy, and recycle and reuse of waste. Increased private sector participation in the O&M, transportation and treatment segments has resulted in better operational efficiency and reduction of revenue losses. New projects and capacities are also being added under various government programmes.

The waste sector is gradually moving towards automation. Advanced technologies such as internet of things, big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning will reduce human interference in operations and asset management in the sector.

Going forward, waste generation levels are expected to more than double to 165 million tonnes by 2030. Also, the volume of liquid waste generation will reach 100 billion litres per day by 2030. To support this growth in waste generation, huge investments will be required for scaling up infrastructure, improving ULB capacity and service delivery, asset maintenance, technology penetration and automation. While the sector is seeing some improvement, the pace of change needs to be accelerated. There is a need to address issues such as inadequate waste collection and segregation, financial constraints, shortage of skilled manpower, lack of proper planning by the authorities, poor enforcement of rules and low awareness among citizens.

This issue of Smart Utilities discusses the new technologies and digital solutions being deployed by the power, gas and water utilities to streamline and automate operations. It also highlights the smart metering practices adopted by power and water utilities, and the role of alternative sources in water management. In addition, the issue discusses the framework for setting up of EV charging networks and their integration with the grid.