India has a huge waste problem. By 2030, estimates say India will need land the size of Singapore to dump its waste. Together with a rising urban population, India is in a race against time to find effective urban waste management strategies.

Nagpur, India’s 13th most populous city, relies solely on the Bhandewadi landfill, that has already exceeded its initial planned capacity. It is pioneering smart waste management solutions “providing end-to-end solution for solid waste management from collection to disposal of waste,” says Ramnath Sonawane, Chief Executive Officer of the Nagpur Smart & Sustainable City Development Corporation.

The city is also India’s smartest city for two years running. GovInsider got in touch with Sonawane, who helms Nagpur’s smart city projects, to unearth how exactly Nagpur is using technology to manage waste and crime.

Smart waste disposal

Nagpur is turning its waste to resources in a bid to reduce the city’s dependence on landfills. “The solid waste is being segregated partially for manufacturing of fertilizers and the remaining solid waste will be segregated as a part of electricity generation project,” Sonawane says.

The city started a waste segregation project, where organic waste such as food waste is segregated, and then transported to a waste-to-fertiliser plant. Since December 2016, 200 out of 1,200 tonnes of daily waste has been processed to manufacture fertilizers.

To tackle the remaining 1000 tonnes of daily unprocessed solid waste, Nagpur announced the construction of a large-scale waste-to-energy plant in 2018. Combustible components of city solid waste, such as non-recyclable plastics and paper cardboard, will be segregated to form material for electricity generation. Next, “projects like the manufacturing of biogas and bio-energy will be taken up in the coming years,” where organic waste will be converted into fossil fuel substitutes, Sonawane reveals.

Smart waste collection

To clean up its streets, the city is using real-time information to monitor waste collection and improve street sanitation. In 2017, Nagpur was ranked 137 out of 434 Indian cities for street cleanliness. While 33 percent of residents surveyed said that waste was not collected from their households daily and that garbage trucks did not turn up for 15 days at times.

In the very same year, the city government started geo-tagging street sweepers and waste collection fleets. Location-tracking devices and cameras were mounted on garbage trucks to collect real-time information and capture images of bin collection, while the city’s 7,000 street sanitation workers were equipped with GPS-enabled watches.

The city recently concluded a pilot test of RFID-tagged and sensor-equipped large wheeled waste bins along Nagpur’s special 5.8 kilometre-long smart street. Weight sensors track bin waste amounts and notify the city operation centre when the bins are full, while the RFID tags allow individual bins to be identified and their collection recorded. “The same will be replicated across the city,” Sonawane adds.

All of this real-time data is consolidated in a Unified Operations Centre to make timely decisions. For instance, data can be overlayed onto a GIS base map to optimise waste collection routes, collection times, fuel consumption, and response times. The centre also updates residents on garbage collection times, and engages them with sporadic surveys on waste management.

Safe and smart city project

Another major issue facing cities in India is public safety. In 2016, Nagpur had the 8th highest crime rate in India, higher than Mumbai, the most populated city in India, and the 5th highest crimes against women.

To enhance public safety, Nagpur launched its city-wide Safe and Smart City project in 2018, comprising a new city-wide surveillance network of 3698 CCTVs in 660 locations. It also laid down 1,200km of fibre optic network to enable central monitoring by a new Nagpur Police City Operation Centre. The system is equipped with facial recognition, automatic number plate recognition, and red light violation detection systems.

The city-wide surveillance system is a “proud achievement of the past year, with the project completed in all districts, so the entire city is under surveillance,” Sonawane says. It has assisted in the resolution of over 1,100 crimes in the past 18 months by giving “early leads and directions for criminal investigation,” he explains.

Nagpur is still a work in progress, even as it attempts to tackle the most pressing issues in India. Interestingly, a 2018 Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs survey found that cities were actually directing the least investments into these two areas. If implemented well, the city may just become the go-to test-bed for scalable solutions throughout the country.