It was in 1998 that the Cyber Towers in a new enclave of Hyderabad ushered in IT to the Nizam’s city. As state-of-the-art buildings arose across this vista, Cyberabad emerged—a modern enclave that gave a digital makeover to a historic city.
It is rather difficult to believe that Cyberabad is not smart, or at least not as smart as a cyber city should be. So a year ago, the Telangana government decided to retrofit Cyberabad to global standards of smartness.
Easier said than done, though, says Jayesh Ranjan, managing director of Telangana State Industrial Infrastructure Corporation, who is heading India's largest ongoing retrofitting initiative.
“For retrofitting, first the stakeholders have to come together—the property owners, government, private developers and the local community. The rule of thumb is that at least three of the four stakeholders should be aligned,” says Ranjan. “Then, there is the big question of who foots the bill. Is it the builder or the resident? Whose permissions are required? Also, we have to remember that retrofitting is around live buildings, unlike a redevelopment where you start from scratch.”
Last year, Ranjan targeted mainly the “low-hanging fruits”, with the relatively low-tech interventions to make all the 850 buildings energy efficient, accessible and zero-waste generating. He also wanted to promote concepts of cycling to work and water conservation.
In the past one year, 680 million square feet of built-up space has been greened based on Green Building Council standards. This is not even 2 per cent of Cyberabad. Fifty buildings have been certified as zero garbage-producing.
“The interesting bit is that every time one thinks of a smart solution, so many other issues crop up,” says Ranjan. “For instance, when we proposed cycling to work, we learnt that not all offices have shower rooms for employees to change. But we are moving on, and what is amply clear is that motivating people, creating mass awareness is the key.” Cyberabad routinely holds cycling events these days. It also ropes in local celebrities for every aspect of its retrofit initiative.
Even as NASSCOM is working on disposal of e-waste, given the copious amounts generated in this enclave, the government is thinking of smart trash cans which send brimming alerts. “We want to introduce 'intelligent traffic' on streets to reduce red-light encounters, and also street lights that automatically dim when there are no people around,” says Ranjan. “The plans are many, there is no destination. But yes, we would like to be recognised as a template of brownfield retrofitting for the rest of India.”