Dholera: First smart city, miles to gohttps://indianexpress.com/article/business/business-others/dholera-first-smart-city-miles-to-go/

Dholera: First smart city, miles to go

It has been notified under the National Investment and Manufacturing Zone policy and obtained environmental clearance in August 2014.

Hoardings of private developers hard-selling Dholera Special Investment Region as India’s first smart city. (Express Photo by: Javed Raja)
Hoardings of private developers hard-selling Dholera Special Investment Region as India’s first smart city. (Express Photo by: Javed Raja)

Nirmalsinh Chudasma, 45, harvested wheat, grams and cotton on the 900 vigha (21.36 lakh square meters) of farmland owned by his family at Dholera, a few years ago. Today, he sits in a plush office dealing in land in the Dholera Special Investment Region (SIR).

“We used to earn just between Rs 3,000-3,500 per month from every vigha of land. Only 500 vighas were productive as the rest is affected by salinity,” he said.

Today Chudasma, who is an influential BJP leader, has hired labourers to till his land, while he concentrates full-time on his real estate business.

Dholera SIR is one of the first and the biggest of the seven nodes to be developed under Phase-I of the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor and is planned to be the first and largest smart, sustainable “greenfield industrial city” located approximately 100 kms south of Ahmedabad to cater to a population of two million, employing over 8,00,000 by 2042.

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It has been notified under the National Investment and Manufacturing Zone policy and obtained environmental clearance in August 2014.

Though Dholera SIR will be spread over 920 sq km, Phase-I will cover 153 sq km and actual work will start from a smaller area of 22.5 sq kms described as “Activation Area”.

An ancient port in the Gulf of Khambat with a history of trade with Eurasian countries — the port at Dholera is defunct.

Just ahead of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas and the Vibrant Gujarat Summit where Dholera was showcased as India’s first smart city, the government allocated Rs 3,000 crore and readied six town planning schemes.

“I never imagined that the land that fetched Rs 3,000 a vigha (1 vigha is equal to approximately 2,374 square meters) five years ago, will skyrocket to Rs 1 lakh. The government in Gandhinagar drew the lines of our fate and we benefitted,” said a smiling Chudasma who was the sarpanch of the village six years ago.

Though there is hardly an sign of construction in the areas visited by The Indian Express within the Dholera SIR, RG Thakur, the sub-registrar says, “In the last six months between July-December 2014, over 742 land deals have officially been registered at our office. Most of deals are in the residential and industrial zone of the TP (Town Planning) 1 and 2 schemes and the buyers are largely from Ahmedabad, Surat, Mumbai and Delhi”.

This Activation area is sub-divided into industrial zones, knowledge and IT zone, solar park, residential zone, high access corridor, logistics, city centre, agriculture zone, village buffer, and tourism-resorts. It also has an FSI (Floor Space Index) of 5 that permits construction of 150 meter-high buildings. The tender worth Rs 2,000 crore for developing the Activation area is already floated.

“Work on two of these town planning schemes will kick off in May-June this year,” said Ajay Bhadoo, CEO of Gujarat Infrastructure and Development Board (GIDB) that is currently in-charge of this ambitious project. Bhadoo is also secretary to chief minister Anandiben Patel, which places the project on priority.

“Dholera is one of the fastest progressing SIRs in the country. However, the project will turn interesting for global investors only when basic infrastructure is created. This will take at least five years,” says Nirav Kothary, head (industrial real-estate), JLL, India, a global real-estate consultant who has himself visited Dholera couple of times.