Interview with the Ahmedabad Municipal Commissioner, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation
Lochan Sehra worked as Secretary (Housing), Urban Development and Urban Housing Department of the Government of Gujarat, before being appointed Municipal Commissioner of Ahmedabad in December 2021.
As Municipal Commissioner of Ahmedabad, in what way has the Leaders Program been helpful?
For all the challenges that I as Municipal Commissioner am facing in Ahmedabad, I have found good solutions in this visit to Madrid, Valladolid and Barcelona. For example, Ahmedabad has been the first city in India to be declared a World Heritage City by UNESCO, and Valladolid is helping us in the conservation of our city’s heritage. This visit has further strengthened the bond we already had with the city of Valladolid.
Ahmedabad is one of the 100 Smart Cities of the Smart Cities Mission of India, and we are working on technological solutions to improve the lives of our citizens under the Ahmedabad Smart City Program. The visit to Barcelona will help us move forward, as we will be able to implement the technological solutions that are already being used in that city, such as data analysis. On the other hand, in Barcelona they have created an innovation center that seeks to provide solutions to the problems faced by the city; it is a very innovative idea. We would also like to set up an innovation center like the one of Barcelona in Ahmedabad.
And what about the visits in Madrid?
In Madrid, the idea was, on the one hand, to establish contact at the political level, Government to Government (G2G). On the other hand, on the business side, in Madrid we met with Acciona and Indra, and I found that that there are many opportunities for business-to-business (B2B) collaboration. When I go back to Ahmedabad, I will talk to the Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry to have direct B2B contact with Spanish companies and with the Spanish Chamber of Commerce, which will help a lot to bring Gujarat and Spain closer together. Therefore, in Madrid it was very positive to establish contact at three levels: G2G, B2B and municipal corporation-city council.
A few days ago, you told that Ahmedabad faces two major problems: waste management and water supply. How can cooperation with Spain help to solve these problems?
In terms of water management, we depend on a limited water supply, so we want to have new technologies to help us reuse treated water. We are already doing that, but technology from Spanish companies can help us treat our wastewater and reuse it in agriculture, industry, etc. We want to reuse our water to save fresh water that we can use for drinking water.
On the other hand, waste management is one of the city's main challenges. We want to have 100% household collection, 100% segregation and 100% processing, the latter being a key issue. Madrid has a processing plant, a BioCNG plant and a waste-to-energy plant. Ahmedabad is in the process of building these plants, so we can learn directly from Madrid's experience. What Madrid has done, we are doing now, so their experience will help us move towards our goal of processing 100% of our municipal waste.
What could be done at the institutional level to strengthen relations between Spain and India?
We may not visit Valladolid on a regular basis, but we could meet monthly online and discuss issues that will help us solve our challenges. The institutional mechanism between Valladolid and Ahmedabad can also continue and keep growing without physical visits.
How does the Leaders Program contribute to the rapprochement between Spain and India? Why would you recommend the ILP to future participants?
I would recommend the ILP because it gives a different perspective to the Indian context. Although the context is different, the problems remain the same: water supply, waste management, etc. Therefore, we can learn from the innovative solutions that have been implemented by other cities around the world, in this case Spanish cities. In these three cities that we have visited, I have found that in some areas we have done better than Spanish cities, so Spanish cities can learn from us, and in other areas, Spanish cities have done better than us, so we can learn from them. It's a win-win situation for both sides. The ILP brings us closer to each other and allows us to find out the problems facing modern cities today and learn about innovative solutions to address them. It allows us to learn from each other to provide a better quality of life for our citizens and cities, which is the ultimate goal.
In which sectors could India learn from Spain, and in which sectors could Spain learn from India?
There are many sectors in which we can learn from each other, but, for example, in terms of what India could learn from Spain, I would highlight Madrid's integrated transport system, which we are trying to set up to organize our transport. As for what Spain could learn from India, we have done a great job in some of our cities, for example in Ahmedabad, in the reuse of wastewater. We are reusing wastewater for agriculture, industry and so on. I have realized that in Madrid reuse is very low, so Madrid could learn from the success story of Ahmedabad and Surat on this issue. By learning from each other we will move forward together and improve our cities and the lives of citizens.