The country’s urban growth centres are on a path of rejuvenation, with the government of India taking up an initiative to promote 100 sustainable and inclusive cities in a time-bound manner. Under the Smart Cities Mission, India is looking at applying intelligent solutions for an ambitious urban renewal and retrofitting project where its citizens will lead a decent quality of life in a clean and sustainable environment with energy-efficient buildings, innovative connectivity, and technology driving its efficiency. 

Using smart materials 

The creation of smart cities involves revamping the current urban infrastructure to match the requirements of its population. As cities develop into smart clusters, they are set to act as the primary growth drivers for the country’s economy.

To make this happen, smart cities need to provide urban living spaces offering pollution-free, organised and easily accessible lifestyle facilities. It will involve using versatile materials to create sustainable housing and developing public and commercial infrastructure transport facilities, among other actions. 

The government’s focus on creating these smart cities offers scope for the downstream aluminium segment to play a critical role in serving the needs of this mission. Right from creating sustainable products that the construction sector will seek, manufacturing of EVs and related charging infrastructure, connectivity through mass transit systems, etc., downstream aluminium has a more significant role in fulfilling the demand from various segments.

A look at the aluminium consumption figures for India shows the power sector to be the biggest consumer of aluminium at 48 per cent, followed by transport and automobiles at 15 per cent, building and construction at 13 per cent, and consumer durables having 7 per cent aluminium consumption. 

These consumption figures are bound to grow as the downstream aluminium sector helps write the smart city story with its vast offerings in the form of extrusion products, bars, rods, and other profiles. Besides creating smart materials, the downstream aluminium segment also generates employment among the masses and supports the country’s GDP as smart cities become hubs of excellence. 

Building eco-friendly cities

Aluminium offers half the carbon footprint of competing metals and thus more significant environmental sustainability benefits. Globally, as smart cities are being created, traditional metal poles and street fixtures are being replaced by aluminium as the preferred material. It has been executed in Australia, where these poles turn cities smarter with their longevity, reduced installation, and maintenance costs besides the environmental sustainability benefits that aluminium offers over traditional steel poles. 

These benefits of aluminium are real reasons for its immense popularity in the construction, transport and even packaging industries. All this interest towards aluminium is because it is a 100 per cent recyclable metal, and it’s recycling only requires 5 per cent of energy, making it highly efficient.  

Providing sustainable mobility solutions is an essential part of the smart cities initiative, where globally, transportation accounts for 26 per cent of the aluminium consumption. Its physical properties are noteworthy. Since its malleability, ductility, conductivity, and light-weighting properties make aluminium an up-to-date material, it is seen to be suitable for a rejig of infrastructure, transport, and housing of our cities.  

As the smart cities begin to take shape, the downstream aluminium segment, thanks to its product demand, is transforming from the mainstay of electrical products used in the construction and transportation industry to other infrastructure, packaging, modular designs, consumer durables and many others.

This broad-spectrum demand for aluminium would soon have India catching up with its developed peers. As projects under the 100 smart city initiative grow further to include newer cities, the wonder metal is on its journey to increase its per capita consumption in India from 2.5 kg and take it closer to the global average levels of 11 kg and beyond. 

The writer is President – Operations at Jindal Aluminium Ltd

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