Smartening coastal cities for sustainability

Coastal or port cities are the centres of business and trade. To improve the basic infrastructure and promote sustainable development in these cities, the Ministry of Shipping has proposed to build 12 smart port cities. In an interview with Urban Update, Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways, and Shipping talks about his action plan for improving civic services and operational efficiency of port cities


India has 12 major ports namely Kandla, Chennai, Nhava Sheva, Mormugao, Visakhapatnam, Kochi, Mumbai,  New Mangalore, Ennore, Tuticorin, Paradip and Kolkata-having 260,000 acres of land between them. The Ministry has decided to build smart cities in and around these ports. How much money is the government allocating for the port city projects? And, what is the action plan for building trans-shipment hub, reducing congestion and building state-of- the-art infrastructure for improving operational efficiency of our ports?

The ‘Smart Port City’ projects have been proposed in two major ports i.e. Kandla and Paradip to start with. The tendering process for these projects is in progress. These port cities would be developed as Green and Smart cities in the next 4-5 years. To develop all the Major Ports into smart cities, the estimated cost is around Rs 50,000 crore. Each major port will construct one smart city with an expenditure of Rs 3,000-4,000 crore.

The Ministry has taken many initiatives to improve the operational efficiency of the major ports. These include mechanization of existing berths, acquisition of state-of-the- art cranes and conveyor systems, and deepening drafts at the ports.

The Ministry has engaged international consultants to study and suggest measures to improve the profitability.

The southernmost part of the country has been identified as the most suitable location for setting up a trans-shipment hub. A green field port near Colachel is proposed to be developed as Major Port in this region in addition to Vizhinjam, which is being developed by the Kerala Government. These Ports would cater to the trans-shipment requirement of the country.

What are the essential infrastructure imperatives for building smart port cities? How urban development at the port sites can generate more value? How is it going to help in improving business opportunity and job creation in these cities?

There are five essential components for development of any smart city: uninterrupted clean power, quality infrastructure that includes smart buildings and offices, which will be sustainable in terms of power and reduce carbon foot prints, seam- less eco-friendly public transport, a robust ICT system, and funds to develop and maintain the smart city and  social capital. We must strive to make sure that any physical infrastructure that comes up is self-sustainable in terms of power and water. It means these cities should harness solar energy and harvest rain water which is in plenty in port cities.

Providing skilled human capital that can create, engage and sustain the future cities will be an integral element. These smart cities will have SEZs and ship breaking and ship building centres besides allied things which will help in skill development and job creation for the people and also improve business opportunities.

What will be the role of civil society organizations and local community in expediting the development of habitats and business centres alongside the coastal line of the country?

The role of civil society organizations and local community will be of utmost importance while developing the smart cities. Cities are reflection of peo- ple that reside in them and it’s up to them to look after the wel- fare of the city. The govern- ment can at best develop the physical structure but it is the social capital that makes it habitable. It is the exist- ing social capital in these cities which will work in the offices and business centers, smart cities will create jobs and opportunities but it will be the peo- ple who will make the smart city work.

Will these cities be financed under the smart city Mission or will there be  different criteria and financing model for them?

Currently ‘Smart City Project’ is being financed by the Central Government which has allotted financial support to an extent of Rs 48,000 cr for a period of five years. If and when the government decides on a different financing model the same will be adopted.

The shipping sector is an important constituent in securing movement of goods from one place to another across the globe, has it been recognized adequately?

Maritime Transport is a critical infra- structure for the economic development of a country. It influences the pace, structure and pattern of development. The Ministry of Shipping en- compasses within its fold shipping and port sectors which also include ship- building and ship repair, major ports and inland water transport. Comprehensive policy framework is necessary to address the diverse issues facing the maritime transport sector. The capacity of the ports in terms of their berths and cargo handling equipment needs to keep pace with the growing requirements of the overseas trade. The ship- ping industry must be enabled to carry higher shares of the sea-borne trade in indigenous bottoms.

Historically, investments in the transport sector, particularly in the ports, have been made by the State, mainly because of the large resources required, long gestation period, uncertain returns and a number of externalities associated with this infrastructure sector. However, the growing resource requirements and the concern for managerial efficiency and consumer responsiveness have led to the active involvement and participation of the private sector. The Ministry of Shipping has laid down comprehensive policy guidelines for private sector participation in major ports. The salient features of Indian shipping policy are the promotion of trade and protection of stakeholder’s interest in EXIM trade. India’s national flag-ships provide an essential means of transport for crude oil and petroleum product imports. National shipping makes significant contribution to the foreign exchange earnings of the country.


“There are five essential components for development of any smart city: uninterrupted clean power, quality infrastructure that includes smart buildings and offices, which will be sustainable in terms of power and reduce carbon foot prints, seamless eco-friendly public transport, a robust ICT system, and funds to develop and maintain the smart city and social capital”

Indian ports need to have international standards of operation for improving quality of services rendered to businesses dependent on ports. How are we going to provide service of international standards on the ports?

It is true that we need to improve our services if we intend to match the global ports in terms of services offered. The Ministry of Shipping is trying its best to improve the services. We have initiated the ‘Sagarmala’ project which envisages transforming the existing ports into modern world class ports and developing new world class ports. The government has emphasized on the infrastructural development of the ports. We are making sure that we get more skilled people on board to improve the situation.

Mckinsey and AECOM, project development consultants, have been engaged for preparing a National Perspective Plan (NPP) which includes mapping of origin-destination study of key cargo in Indian ports, study of traffic scenario for a period of 20 years, development of 2035 port master plan, identification of 5-6 mega port locations, identification of 2-3 suitable locations for development of maritime clusters, preparation of a master plan for two identified coastal economic clusters, etc.

Suggestions have been sought from Chief Ministers of the maritime States/ UTs and stakeholder ministries of central government. The Ministry is actively engaging itself with the states for getting their views and suggestions for implementing the concept of ‘Sagarmala’. So far, the Ministry has engaged with 10 States/UTs, namely, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, West Bengal, Odisha, Puducherry and Lakshadweep.

A port Rail Company has been incorporated on July 10, 2015, with equity participation of 11 major ports and Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL). This company will take up last mile port connectivity projects. A list of 34 projects was identified in the first phase out of which seven are being tendered for execution.

Techno-economic feasibility report on development of Colachel in Tamil Nadu as a deep draught port has been completed. The port is proposed to be developed as major port through a special purpose vehicle (SPV). Support of state government has been sought in acquiring land and for rail-road connectivity and for getting other statutory clearances and also to join as equity partner (up to 26 per cent) if so desired by state government.

Action has been initiated for obtaining approval for Sagarmala Development Company (SDC) to take up projects under the Sagarmala initiative and act as funding window for projects which are critical for implementing the Sagarmala concept.

Non-major ports in the country are slowly but steadily catching up with the major ports. Is the Centre thinking of any synergy between major ports and non-major ports in the future?

The major ports being under the Central Government and the non-major Ports under the jurisdiction of the respective state governments flows from the Constitutional mandate. However, the tendency to view them as two distinct monoliths is somewhat out of sync with the reality. Being commercial entities, the ports, major or otherwise, compete amongst themselves. Hence, as far as business activities are concerned, they are competitors and the labels, major or non-major are incidental.

However, there are issues of common interest for the ports where efforts are made to develop synergy. These include pollution control, environmental issues, fiscal incentives, etc. Under a scheme formulated by the Central Government, assistance is given to both major and non-major ports for setting up facilities for controlling oil pollution. Similarly as part of government’s endeavour to promote coastal shipping, financial assistance is given to both for exclusive coastal berths. At the institutional level, the Maritime States Development Council comprising of ministers and senior officials in charge of shipping and ports in the centre and the maritime states, meet at regular intervals and discuss matters of common interest.

Like the successful Golden Quadrilateral project, does your Ministry have any dedicated connectivity projects among the major ports?

A seaport is the interface between land and sea transport modes. It is the hinterland connectivity and evacuation infrastructure which are crucial to the efficient functioning of a port. The major ports are having double line rail connectivity and also road connectivity to national highways. Efforts are continuously underway to upgrade their capacities. To ensure last mile rail connectivity, an SPV, namely, Port Rail Company has been formed.

Seeing the negative impacts of climate change on the coastal areas, climate change and its mitigation has to be one of the major components of the planning for smart port cities. How is the government planning to embed the mitigation and resilience in its plan?

Climate change is an important issue and we must preserve the flora and fauna of these port cities to maintain ecological balance. As mentioned above, all the smart cities that will be developed along the ports will be ‘Green Smart Cities’. Special emphasis will be put on the use of green energy. Wind and solar energy will be harnessed to provide electricity to these smart cities, port water will be recycled for drinking and other purposes, port waste will be turned into bio gas and the vehicles will run on bio gas and electricity. The government will try its best to maintain the ecological harmony of these port cities.


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