Mumbai’s railway system typically serves more than 7 million commuters every day, but the jam-packed trains in the world’s eighth-largest city create risks that regularly injure and even kill riders. Looking to provide safe mass transit to its rapidly growing population, Mumbai Metro Rail Corp. (MMRC)—a consortium of India’s state and central governments—is building the city’s first underground train system. Collaborating with design and engineering consultants including AECOM, Padeco, LBG and Egis Group, the team broke down the megaproject into two sections: The first is on pace to be delivered by December 2021, with the remaining section expected to be operational by mid-2022.
13th Most Influential Project of 2021
Government leaders in the Maldives believe a floating city could address the urgent risk of the island country being swallowed by the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts sea levels could rise a half meter (1.6 feet) by 2100, a scenario that would submerge 77 percent of the South Asian archipelago’s land area. Launched in partnership with Dutch architecture studio Waterstudio and construction company Dutch Docklands, the massive infrastructure project could serve as a scalable blueprint for other coastal communities. Slated to be built just outside of the Maldives’ capital of Malé, the new island city will be powered by renewable energy and provide space for thousands of homes, a hospital, a school and commercial properties. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2022, with work completed in phases over the next half decade.
24th Most Influential Project of 2021
Heavy snowfall blankets the main roads to and from India’s Lahaul and Spiti Valley for six months each year, isolating towns and villages from supplies and services, and stifling economic progress. The solution? A 9-kilometer (5.6-mile) highway tunnel through the Rohtang Pass, high in the Himalayan mountains. Despite blizzards, mudslides, freezing temperatures and, of course, the pandemic, the horseshoe-shaped double-lane passage opened in October 2020 as the world’s longest high-altitude tunnel.
42nd Most Influential Project of 2021
Eight Indian banks—HDFC, Kotak, ICICI, Axis, SBI, IndusInd, IDFC and Federal—rolled out a new system called Account Aggregator. Through a centralized API-based repository, consumers can share their data with banks, insurers, tax authorities and other financial institutions—the speed and accuracy of which promises faster transactions and more informed financial decisions. Debuting in September, the tool “will help in the democratization of data and shift the power over data accessibility and usage to owners of data rather than the holders of data,” said Rajeshwar Rao, deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of India, at the launch. Other banks wanting to offer Account Aggregator will be able to secure licenses through RBI.
India’s electric vehicle market is booming—driven almost entirely by sales of scooters. One of the prime players? Bengaluru startup Ola Electric’s S1. Just rolled out in September, it’s already lapping the standard models. Not only does it eschew fossil fuels for electric batteries, but it also comes loaded with features, like a digital key, geo-fencing and voice recognition—all served up it up a rainbow mix of cool colors. But the company isn’t content to simply design a winner. It’s now building the world’s largest electric scooter factory, a US$322 million initiative in Tamil Nadu. Spread over 500 acres (202 hectares), the so-called Futurefactory will include more than 3,000 robots across 10 production lines, pumping out 10 million scooters each year. That’s one scooter every 2 seconds. Vroom, vroom!
A newborn’s weight is a powerful gauge of their health. More than 20 million low-weight babies globally face serious and prolonged health issues—nearly half of them born in Southeast Asia. Three-year-old Mumbai nonprofit Wadhwani artificial intelligence (AI) recently developed a mobile weighing tool that uses machine learning to make a 3D model of an infant and calculate weight in seconds. It’s now launched pilot projects with hospitals across four Indian states, with a national launch planned for next year.
Indian aerospace manufacturer Bellatrix Aerospace just positioned itself into the space industry’s orbit with the inauguration of a state-of-the-art laboratory in September. Located in Bengaluru, the privately funded laboratory will develop and test electric and green chemical propulsion technology, an innovative departure from conventional chemical propulsion using the toxic fuel hydrazine. The startup, under the Indian Institute of Science, is aiming to launch its own rocket named Chetak in 2023. In the meantime, commercial use of the first privately built electric propulsion engines for micro satellites, Hall Thruster, will be available by the end of the year.
In the heart of Rajasthan’s arid desert landscape in India lies Rajkumari Ratnavati Girl’s School. A school, yes, but also a powerful statement of female empowerment. Though Rajasthan is the third-largest Indian state, it ranks the lowest in female literacy at 53 percent. So nonprofit Citta Foundation teamed up with Diana Kellogg Architects in New York City to create the school. Open to area girls below the poverty line, the facility includes classrooms, a library, a computer center and a bus facility to transport girls from neighboring villages. Built by local craftsmen—often the fathers of the girls—of locally sourced sandstone, the oval-shaped building echoes the curvilinear shapes of local forts and is a nod to universal symbols of female strength.
Some 6 million people in India (and 40 million worldwide) need prosthetic limbs, but the devices are often prohibitively expensive. Looking to develop a more affordable option, Makers Hive in Hyderabad used 3D printing to create KalArm: an app-enabled bionic hand that costs around US$5,000, an estimated 90 percent less than comparable prosthetics. Released in December 2020, it receives wireless firmware updates and can be customized with a range of interchangeable panels.
The Indian state of Madhya Pradesh will soon be home to the world’s largest floating solar plant. Located on the reservoir formed by the Omkareshwar Dam across the Narmada River, the US$410 million array will have panels that can automatically adjust their position when the water level at the dam is low. Financially supported by International Finance Corp., The World Bank and Indian electric utility giant Power Grid, the 600-megawatt facility will also be designed to withstand strong waves and floods. The Indian government is aiming for it to be operational by 2023. But in the meantime, project leaders are looking to quell concern about the plant’s potential to disrupt water ecosystems with plans to issue a tender to study environmental and social impacts.