What is Singapore model of a smart city and how much India can replicate it

Singapore government, business bodies and Singaporeans with Indian roots say India can do with a bit of flexibility in its archaic laws readiness to use high technology;

Written by Santosh Singh | Singapore | Updated: November 26, 2014 9:13 am

Why has been there so buzz around Singapore in terms of Narendra Modi government planning 100 smart cities? Andhra Pradesh CM N Chandrababu Naidu has just returned from Singapore after discussing development of AP’s new state capital. His Telengana counterpart K Chandrashekhar Rao visited here earlier with idea of developing his port cities.

India talks of “smart cities” and Singapore Minister of State for foreign affairs Masagos Zulkifli said Singapore had started talking of becoming the “first smart nation” of the country with plans like underground expansion of the city and selective use of robotics to further curtail or enhance human efforts.

Right from coffee shops to Singaporeans with Indian roots to business bodies, there has been a definite buzz around India “breaking barriers”, as Zulkifli put it during his meeting with Indian journalists at a cafe on 14 June. With Singapore PM Lee Tsien Loong calling India a key regional player during recent Asean-India meet and Indian Pm Modi expected to attend Singapore’s 50th Independence Day celebrations next year, there is lot of expectancy around business bodies and individual entrepreneurs looking up to India as next big destination.

Talk to policy makers and city planners and this is what they mean by “a smart city” – a mix of urban town planning, multi-layer sewerage pipes with sensors to detect damage, integrated transport plan to charge less from commuters despite his long distance tours with change in mode of transport and increased focus on bicycling to reach metro rail stations rather than taking cars.

The traffic lights are automated and can decide its stopping seconds as per traffic load. A driver gets 24 points in a year and can lose his license after losing these points for traffic violation. A private contractor, who does not clear dirt near its site on public road, also loses his point for next contract.

“Policemen are hardly visible in Singapore. Yet, all follow rules. It is not about fear of law but about behaving yourself on road”, said Rashidy, a driver. Land Transport Authority Transport Gallery that shows how Singapore itself learnt about traffic management from best practices of the world from Boston, Tokyo and New York displays seven types of driving licences to regulate traffic. One such category is hazardous vehicles. The gallery in-charge talks alternative transport thinking to settle with public transport to minimise car use.

Singapore plans 900 km (10 km developed already) of sheltered cycling paths, something that can be replicated in India. These cycling paths cannot be used by bikers. Bike-sharing scheme, introduced in Singapore, can be easily followed in India to travel to offices on same route.

For easy traffic flow monitoring, Singapore has introduced over 600 Junction eyes to monitor its traffic movement and there is also parking guiding scheme in place to ensure vehicles do not clog at parking places when there are not enough spaces. To ensure pedestrian road safety, road engineering measures such as pedestrian crossing lines with enhanced dash markings and your speed monitoring system.
Director of Urban planning excellence under Urban Redevelopment Authority Seow Kah Ping explained how it had been a tough journey for Singapore since its independence in 1965 to make best use of space with its resettlement and land compensation policy.

He showed two slides of Singapore to its journey from one of a cluttered city towards the present city that has 17 water reservoirs and has water sports in place for tourists’ attraction. “All buildings are made as per master plan. It is a multi-agency effort”, he said adding that India needs to get over multiplicity of authority to get fast results. He said accountability had been fixed at Singapore for every work done. Land Transport Authority of Singapore is providing funding to companies to ensure their employees have smart and alternative travel plans.

A company can apply for travel smart grant up to S $ 160000 for projects such as shower facilities and bicycle parks for those who choose to work place, early morning programmes such as exercise sessions for those who reach offices early. LTA has partnering with companies of 200 employees located near metro stations to promote bicycling.

LTA has started a scheme that will give alert to commuters on crowd levels on specific routes on their mobile phones and alert on accidents and traffic congestion to car drivers through their ain-device alerts. Singapore’s housing complexes such as Punggol New Town showed use of solar power for lights including lifts and were installed at rooftop that was covered with plantation to work as anti-heat treatment. Punggol New Town, Singapore’s eco-housing project having 712 flats, also has car-sharing scheme. The Singapore Senior Minister of State for foreign affairs Zulkifli said: “The main problem of people here is housing, especially after a spouse loses a house after divorce after selling it to partner or jointing sharing the money after resale.

Getting a second house is tough”. Married people are given additional preferences of buying a flat to live near their parents or vice versa to promote family ties. There is studio house for elderly and similar scheme for singles. For water management, the government says it “loans water, not sells them”. It has water reclamation policy to recycle sewage water, called “used” water to lend grace to it. The recycled water is called “New water”. George Madhavan from PUB (national water agency of Singapore) said: “There has to be tendency of not draing away water but to recollect it. We have separate sets of sewers and rainwater is fully harvested”. Asked about floods, he said the maximum flood they saw was 27 cm high in 2010.

Singapore International Foundation that connects Singapore to overseas community also takes increasing young talents from world to take up new initiatives to make smart cities smarter with realisation of new ideas. SIF chairman Euleen Goh said: “Good business can make change happen. There is need to pitch for change”. George Abraham from Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said there had been buzz about Modi willing to change with smart city proposals but business bodies would need a clear-cut policy and plans in place to engage with India. “In Singapore, you can open a company with S $ 30 in a day. India needs to relax its rules, some of its labour laws,” said Abraham.

Singapore University of Technology and Design teacher Poon King Wang said: “We are thinking of becoming the world’s first smart nation. We now look up to robotics to use it selectively in future. We want multi-model transport and may wish to go car-less someday Singapore Unversity of Technology and Design has assessed that an estimated one million new people join world’s cities every week. Country like India will face more problems of urbanisation as 11 billion will add to its cities by 2030.

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