CEEII Smart Cities

Smart Cities

in a sustainable social development

  1. Introduction

The cities of the future cannot be considered smart unless they can constantly be improved and be able to survive in time. As there is a constant trend for urbanization in the world and especially in the countries with very large populations, the future development of cities has the potential to influence the design of the whole international society. Today, about 68% of the world’s population is estimated to live in cities.

With regard to the population increase on the earth and the ongoing climate change, the importance of conservation of natural resources, the increasing use of fossil-free energy and the circular economy, become obvious. Important parts of the infra-structure in society such as water and energy supply, waste management etc must be based on sustainability and circular economy on a global scale.

An effective way of influencing the global development is to pay attention and address actions to those countries with large populations such as India. The over 15 years of collaboration between CEEII’s international research group and Prof Shyam Asolekar’s research group at Centre for Environmental Science and Engineering(CECE) of IITB and Prof Pradip P. Kalbar’s group Center for Urban Science and Engineering (CUSE), of IITB in Mumbai, creates the most favorable conditions for achieving visible and recognizable results.

A new way of thinking and life philosophy, which today’s modern society has not been accustomed to so far as well as application of innovative technologies will be necessary when planning the smart cities of the future. Some resources, materials and products that have been available in good quality and sufficient quantity cannot be considered as given in the future and must be questioned and replaced by innovative solutions. Detailed studies of several problem areas with crucial importance for the Indian society have been made and innovative system solutions have been proposed.

  1. Priority areas and methods

To give some examples, materials for which there is limited access, those that require a lot of energy for their production, materials and technology causing large carbon dioxide emissions etc must be avoided to use as far as possible. What is often heard in the ongoing debate as a solution is the replacement of the fossil fuels with alternative energy sources, the use of zero-emission technologies, the limited use of single-use plastics and packaging and innovative water purification methods.

What, however, has not been sufficiently paid attention to is the use of building materials and construction technology that does not require high energy consumption as well as development and use of products and technology that do not require consumption of large quantities of clean water, such as the introduction of laundry and sanitation systems by reusing water, etc.

The type of products and technology, which are based on restrained use, re-use and the management of natural resources, is often easier for the Asian and African countries to understand than the industrial countries which are taking the welfare as given. It is in the human nature that, only when one lacks a resource that one has had in abundance, begins to become aware of its value.

Since about 15 years of close collaboration with Prof Shyam Asolekar and his research group at IITB in Bombay, our Swedish R&D group in Uppsala has understood better the extent of the urbanization problem in India and how in a different way the researchers and the authorities in India and Bangladesh try to find solutions that can be used in practice.

Having in their culture the philosophy of Gandhi, the people of India are better equipped to meet the challenges that the population expansion and climate change will entail, in order to be able to “… be the change you want to see in the world”, a truth which not only applies to India but worldwide.

Based on problem analysis done by IITB, the Indian researchers in collaboration with CEEII’s research team have developed innovative systems and solutions based on European technology but at the same time be suitable to adapt to the needs that exist in India so that they can be accepted by the local authorities and industry.

Below gives a brief presentation of some areas related to the concept of Smart Cities which is considered in an Indian perspective, where CEEII in Uppsala cooperates with Prof Shyam Asolekar’s research team at CECE in IITB Mumbai.

  1. Fundamental principle for Smart Cities: Circular Economy and sustaina-bility

With expanding urbanisation and industrialization, there is an exponential increase in the amount of solid wastes generation. Land disposal in the form of sanitary landfills and/or open un-scientific dumpsites is a global practice being followed for the ultimate disposal of MSW. Due to which, the management of solid wastes and open dumpsites has emerged out as a global concern over the last decades.

Considering the situation in India, the number of open dumpsites is increasing at a rapid pace. The open dumpsites like Deonar in Mumbai, Ghazipur, Okhla, Narela-Bawana and Bhalswa in Delhi, Bingipura and Laksmipura in Bangarulu, Dhaka and Garden in Kolkata and many more in different cities are few examples of unscientific open dumpsites in India.

However, the growing concerns over ground and surface water contamination and land constraints have prompted the scientific communities and regulatory authorities towards more sustainable and environmentally sound management of the wastes as per principles of 3R (Reduce, reuse and Recycle). Managing the gigantic amount of municipal wastes MSW in an environmentally sound and cost-effective manner is a challenging task for developing economies such as India.

The waste generation from the Indian cities has increased by 50% in the past few decades and continues to grow at an even escalating rate. The total municipal solid waste generation in urban India is 62 million tonnes per year. At the existing rate, the waste generated by the year 2040 would become 230 million tonnes per year. The land required to dispose such huge quantity of wastes, when stacked 9 meters high, is equivalent to the size of the metropolitan cities such as Mumbai, Hyderabad and Chennai put together. In other words, the way India handle its waste is unsustainable for the future.

A group of researchers who are members in CEEII are specialized in the recycling of organic waste and cooperate with the research-team of IITB aiming to implement Swedish technology for waste treatment in India.

  1. Innovative methods for recycling of plastics

Pollution caused by disposal of plastics has become a serious global problem. Scientists estimate that every square mile of oceans contains about 46.000 pieces of floating plastics. Reports say that about 6,3 billion tonnes plastics, globally, has been discarded into the environment since in the past 60 years most of which will not break down for at least 450 years. Under the United Nations Environmental Assembly meeting in Kenya presented a shocking figure of about 10 million tonnes of plastics being dumped annually into oceans.

It is well known that several tonnes of polymeric wastes are directly disposed of in the rivers, lakes and creeks. Several tonnes are routinely dumped into municipal sewers meant for conveying domestic sewages and storm water drains. The State of Maharastra generates over 1200 tonnes plastic waste per day, which means 0,5 million tonnes per year. Regarding the extent of recycling, there is no clear information about how much of it is being recycled or why some of it is not being collected by the rag-pickers. Plastic industry in Maharastra is a sun-rise industry having nearly 55.000 processing companies and 30.000 recycling companies.

Most of the plastic products are used once and thrown away such as bags, cups and straws. India´s contribution to plastic waste which is dumped into the world´s oceans, every year, is a massive 60%. The Government of Maharastra decided on March 2018 to prohibit the manufacture, usage, sale, storage and transport of certain products made of plastics and thermocol (polystyrene, PS). Financial penalties have been imposed for the first offence, second offence and even imprisonment for the repeated offences.

The ban of plastics in Maharastra as a pioneer initiative, is expected to catalyse modernisation and expansion of the so-called “new” sector consisting of industries and associated traders and distributors who will assume the “leadership roles” in streading their recycling business outside Maharastra and even in other Asian countries. The decision of ban of plastics opens new business opportunities providing “early bird´s and pioneer´s advantage” and must be capitalized. Many Asian countries are Contemplating ban on plastics but do not have technological and commercial strengths required for making the ban work.

The outcome of the initiative taken by the State of Maharastra to regulate the problem through a drastic decision to ban, in order to force the use of alternative materials instead of plastics, is followed with great interest by the research-team of CEEII who are experts in the recycling of plastics in cooperation with the research-team of IITB.

  1. Innovative and sustainable building materials

The construction industry is the largest industry in the world and at the same time it has a very negative impact on the climate by accounting for about 8% of all carbon dioxide emissions. This is largely due to the use of cement whose production process requires very high temperatures. Production of one tonne of cement causes about one tonne of carbon dioxide emissions.

Today there are innovative low-energy binders that are at least as effective as cement, they have a lower price and in many respects are superior cement-based products. Replacement of cement with this type of materials means a drastic reduction in carbon dioxide emissions caused by the construction industry.

One of the advantages of the new building materials is that they can be used to build on site with very simple means, therefore they are particularly suitable for use in areas where there is no mechanized construction industry and engineering while at the same time there is access to cheap labor. Such conditions prevail in countries and regions with rapid population growth and a screaming need to acquire somewhere to live for large social groups as for example in India and Bangladesh.

Airstone Academy’s international research group in Uppsala has developed a complete system, Airstone, for zero-emission building technology and has signed agreements with CMK AB which will build a pilot/demo airstone villa and then market the technology in Sweden and a number of other countries.

Adaptation of the Airstone system to developing countries is studied in collaboration with The Centre for Urban Science & Engineering (C-USE) at IIT Bombay having as primary objective the improvement of the urban quality of life by delivering innovative and holistic services aiming to the rapidly urbanizing population in the developing world. The C-USE is focusing on new products and solutions related to housing and urban poverty, mitigating also the effects of climate change. Airstone technology is a step forward to making cities of the world, especially the developing world, more livable and smart.

  1. Innovative methods for waste water management

India, the second most populated country in the world, has 18% of the world´s population (1.4 billion people), but access to only 4% of world´s fresh water resources. With respect to water availability, there exists a substantial temporal and spatial variation within the India. About 70% of country´s water resources are accessible to only 36% of the area while the remaining 64% has 29% available (UNISEF 2013). This scenario has led to rapid decline of groundwater in most states of the country and is no longer sustainable. Many people living in the urban areas have neither general access to traditional potable water supply systems nor adequate sanitation facilities.

Recently, the so-called natural treatment systems (NTS) have been regarded as a superior system for increasing flows of wastewater from municipalities and industries. The obvious benefits of the NTS make them more relevant to developing economies such as Asia and Africa in general and India in particular.

Some of the most usual NTSs are the constructed wetlands (CWs), which have become much appreciated recently because of their beneficiary economy and their acceptance among communities, especially the peri-urban communities. There is an enormous potential for applying NTS, in India. Over the past two decades, extensive efforts have been made by the Indian Government to treat sewage from communities across the country. For the treatment of wastewater, the constructed wetlands have been selected as “favoured” technology.

Constructed wetlands can be used as effective and inexpensive wastewater treatment strategies and are urgent and necessary to implement on the Indian subcontinent. CWs can be used instead of or in combination with some other suitable post-treatment technologies to become a technically and economically feasible method which must also be socially acceptable for the waste water management.

  1. Use of non-fossil energy systems

A number of energy models for the use of alternative energy sources have been developed by CEEII, which has been discussed with the IITB team and be found suitable for implementation in India and the future need for energy supply within the framework of the smart cities concept.

  1. Summary and closure

Knowledge transfer between Sweden and India in the smart cities issue kan potentially become valuable to both parties if it is to be based on exchange of experience in both directions and takes into account the ongoing social development in India and cultural aspects.