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The Cleanest City of India: Is it ready to fully adopt circularity?

Indore is an old historic city located in the central state of India, Madhya Pradesh. The city has always been known for its trading activities since the time it was founded in 1715 and became the capital of the princely state ruled by the Maratha Holkars and the summer capital of Madhya Bharat.

Circular Bhubaneswar - The Temple City

In 1956, with the renaming of the state to Madhya Pradesh the capital was shifted to Bhopal while, Indore continued to grow as a commercial capital for the state. Being the chief collecting and distributing centre, with major educational institutions, the city’s population has grown larger over time from 3,53,000 in 1956 to current increase of about 3 million in 2020. Due to the large scale industrialization and commercialisation, the city was facing its major urban challenges in the domain of transportation, solid waste, energy and water supply

Smart Initiative

Indore was selected as one of the cities in the first batch of top 20 smart cities in 2015. Since then, the city has found solutions for efficient transport and mobility, solid waste management, heritage and history and various other infrastructure and IT initiatives. The city has done commendable work in finding solutions to the biggest issue of managing waste by being India’s cleanest city, under Swachh Survekshan, fourth time by the year 2020. This article looks into the way Indore can progress from a clean and smart city to a circular city by taking care of four major challenges:

Solid Waste Management

Indore generates 1,115 million tonnes of garbage every day as compared to Bhopal, capital of Madhya Pradesh which generated 800 million tonnes per day. There was a need to have an efficient approach for improving the cleanliness scenario in Indore. The door-to-door (D2D) garbage collection, initially started as a pilot project started in 2016 - the project was implemented in 2 out of 84 wards of the city, took almost a year to achieve the 100% mark.

The treatment of wet and dry waste are done in different incinerator plants – classified as domestic, semi bulk and bulk generators, where the waste is processed into compost. The domestic hazardous waste is also treated in a different incinerator managed by an external contracted agency. The remains of the domestic hazardous waste are then sent to the landfills, termed as ‘hazardous landfill’.


The total water supply of Indore is 273 MLD which is estimated to increase to 360 MLD in 2024. With the constant industrial development, the water demand of industries is estimated to double from 30 MLD to 60 MLD by 2030. However, the implementation of Narmada Water Supply Scheme is the most critical source of water for the city. Today, the total capacity of Narmada Phase III project is 540 MLD out of which the drawn output is only 360 MLD. There are 5000 borewells under Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC) and between 1 to 1.5 lakhs owned by private individuals, yet the borewells only supply 15% of the water in the city.

With the push and pull migration pattern, and changing land-use patterns there is continuous pressure being imposed on the resources leading to an additional load on water supply, especially in slum areas. 30 tankers were designated to supply water in the slum areas with each tanker having the capacity of 6,000 litres. Despite this initiative, the water supply remains insufficient in these areas.


The city is facing explosive growth of vehicles at the annual growth rate of about 8.8%. it is estimated that 75% of the trips are scheduled for work and education. Due to an increase in vehicular traffic the maximum GHG emission is being caused due by 65% of two-wheelers and 20% by unorganized public transport. However, the introduction of the Bus Rapid Transit System in Indore was introduced to lower the congestion and provide safe travels to the public. Development of a mobile application, known as “iBus”, provides information regarding the timings and the routes of the buses to make it convenient for the citizens. Designed for a capacity of 70,000 passengers per day; the 34 i-buses carries about 45,000 passengers per day as compared to 200 passengers per day in the beginning. Out of the total passengers, about 24% of the passengers shifted from private modes, such as cars/2-wheelers to an i-Bus.


The requirement of energy in terms of electricity, in urban areas of the city, is growing rapidly as the standards of living improve. 794 million units of electricity have been estimated is used. The major sectors which require energy conservation are: residential, commercial and industrial majorly due to the increased use of air conditioners, other extra domestic and commercial appliances and machines for manufacturing goods in industries. Due to ever-increasing demand of electricity, especially in the residential sector, Indore has been selected as a ‘solar city’ making it mandatory to install solar equipment in all houses exceeding 1500 sq. ft of area. Despite being selected as a ‘solar city’ the electricity demand continues to increase as it has risen from 360 MW per day to 502 MW per day.

The sustainable building concept is slowly growing in Indore at the rate of 15% with 51 projects (mostly residential and IT campuses) been passed in two years. The ‘green’ concept has been made mandatory even in the organized business parks. If implemented well, this concept seems to have tremendous effects on water and electricity usage sustainably.

Towards a circular city

Applying the ReSOLVE framework, six activities are taken into consideration for implementing circularity in a city. For successful implementation of the six principles, both, bottom-up and top-down interventions are necessary.

The government’s willingness to adopt the path to change has already played as an accelerator to making Indore as the cleanest city. An equal effort by the government, various other academic and non-academic institutes and the citizens of the city is crucial for circularity to be implemented. In the end, the idea behind successfully adopting and implementing the concept of circularity is to see waste as a resource.


















About the Authors

Nehmat Singh (LinkedIn) is a geographer and urbanist with interest areas in an urban environment, ecosystem services and sustainability. She pursued her master's in urban management and development from IHS, Erasmus University Rotterdam. Along with being an urban enthusiast, she is constantly trying to improve her baking skills.

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