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India’s first industrial city at Dholera takes shape as firms line up investments

Maulik Pathak
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Ahmedabad: After a delay of several years, Dholera, projected as India's first planned industrial city and a part of the ambitious multi-billion dollar Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), is ready to draw investors. Plans for a Rs 7,000 crore high-speed metro rail network are being worked out.

“We are in take-off mode. We are ready to allot land for industrial projects and are in talks with multiple companies keen to invest here. They are finalising plans and it's only a matter of days or perhaps weeks before some major announcements are made in this direction,” according to Jai Prakash Shivhare, managing director of Dholera Industrial City Development Limited (DICDL).

French aerospace and defence firm Airbus group and Baba Kalyani group have committed to invest in Dholera, but will do so only after receiving orders from government, Shivhare said during a recent media interaction.

As many as 5,000 workers are seen readying infrastructure work of about Rs.3000 crore at the site for the first phase, which is likely to be ready by September. In the upcoming Vibrant Gujarat summit later this month, pacts between the Gujarat government and private companies for setting up industries in Dholera are expected to be announced.

The land for the metro rail project has already been acquired and funding plans have been finalised. Spanning 100 kilometres in length, the first phase of the metro rail project will be built over 61.55 kilometres, while the second phase connecting Dholera will cover the remaining 38.45 kilometers.

“The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), which is acquiring land for a new expressway connecting Ahmedabad with Dholera has also acquired additional land for the metro rail project. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has agreed to fund the metro project from its rolling fund. We will take a call on the metro project in the next two to three years when Dholera is up and running,” according to Shivhare.

Conceptualised as India's first green field smart city, Dholera was seen as a pet project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he was the chief minister of Gujarat. The Dholera Special Investment Region will be showcased by the Gujarat government as an investment destination at the upcoming Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors' summit scheduled to be held in Gandhinagar later this month.

The Dholera city project, first envisaged in 2007, had faced some challenges in the past, including protests against land acquisition.

A number of ground-breaking events are expected to take place at Dholera this year, including the announcement of the Dholera International Airport, a 1000-megawatt (MW) solar park and a new express highway. In the renewable energy space, the ultimate aim is to set up a solar park with an overall capacity of 5,000 MW, the largest in the world, according to Shivahare.

Gandhinagar, the capital city of Gujarat, is spread across 44 square kilometres. In comparison, the first phase of Dholera will come up in an area measuring 22.54 square kilometres (known as activation area), roughly half the size of Gandhinagar. The total footprint size of Dholera is 920 square kilometres of which 423 square kilometres is the developable area and the remaining part falls in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), thereby making it ideal for renewable projects.

“The project will become a major landmark in the next few years. It's going to be India's most liveable place. Many new cities have come up in India such as Gandhinagar, Naya Raipur, Bhubaneshwar and Bhopal but they are all political capitals. Dholera will be India's first planned industrial city,” said Shivahare. It will create jobs for around 80,000 people.

Dholera, which is being developed as a special investment region, is the biggest part of the DMIC with a projected development cost of Rs 20,000 crore. The state government created a legislative framework for the formation of the Special Investment Region Act 2009. Under the Act, a regional development authority for the DSIR was established.

The Dholera Special Investment Region Development Authority (DSIRDA) is responsible for planning and developing the DSIR. DICDL was created between the Central government (DMICDC Trust) and the DSIRDA to implement the project. The project is expected to be completed by 2040. It is likely to generate employment for 8 lakh people and house as many as 20 lakh people.

There has been some concern about Dholera being a low-lying area, which makes it prone to flooding. “Keeping this in mind, we have designed the infrastructure in such a way that in worst case scenarios, there will be no flooding. We have set up huge ducts that will ensure that any flooding is taken care of within 10 minutes.”