Around 46 per cent of 14,197 hectares of land allotted for various Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Gujarat has been lying vacant and it has been proposed to be used for solar power generation.
The plan was mooted at an Open House last week where it was said that 6,500 hectares vacant SEZ land in Gujarat accounts for one-third of the 23,700 hectares lying unused across SEZs in the country.
“We have a meeting in this regard on October 15. Every SEZ has some parcel of land which can be used for solar power generation. Either individual SEZs can set up captive solar power plants or can source it from Adani SEZ, which has shown interest in supplying power to other SEZs,” said Amiya Chandra, the Zonal Commissioner of Kandla Special Economic Zone (KASEZ) told The Indian Express.
During the Open House at GIFT City Club at Gandhinagar, Amiya Chandra pointed out that half of the land area allotted to SEZs in Gujarat was unutilised. “Some of the SEZs have done commendably and have utilised the available resources to their fullest, but then there are many who still need to tweak their strategy and open up for more business endeavours,” he pointed out.
According to data tabled in the Lok Sabha on February 11, 2019, the quantum of vacant land in SEZs in Gujarat is 26% of the total 23,779.20 hectares vacant in SEZs across the country. This data shows that there are over 9 SEZs in Gujarat (as on August 2017) where almost 100 per cent of the land is lying vacant. This includes two SEZs of state-run Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation and series of private SEZs, including those belonging to Dishman Infrastructure, HBS Pharma SEZ and CPL Infrastructure Pvt Ltd.
However, in terms of area, the Adani SEZ at Mundra tops with an estimated 56 per cent of the 8,400 hectares of SEZ land lying unutilised. The SEZ in GIFT City which houses the country’s only International Finance Service Centre (IFSC) also over 90 per cent vacancy, while the Sterling SEZ in Bharuch is 77 per cent vacant.
The Central Government has advised all state governments, including Gujarat, to “ensure maximum utilisation of land acquired for the setting up of SEZs.” When asked about the high quantum of vacant land in SEZs in Gujarat, a senior government official, on condition of anonymity, said, “Some of these developers have set up SEZs as real-estate projects. This increases the value of the land surrounding the SEZ that incidentally belongs to the developer. Some of these developers have been served show-cause notices about the land that has been lying vacant, while some of them have applied for denotification.”
However, the exact number of developers who have been warned by the government or those who have applied for denotification was not immediately available.
Apart from the issue of land lying vacant, there are several SEZs units that have approached the state government asking their SEZs to be denotified as the units with the SEZs have closed down. For instance, the units in Surat Apparel Park SEZ operated by the GIDC have made multiple representations to denotify their SEZ since 2014.
“There were about 14 units in this SEZ. Just two or three units within the SEZ are currently functioning. The rest have shut down. We have been asking the government to denotify the SEZ for the past four years,” said Ravindra Arya, CMD of Surat-based Bindal Silk Mills Pvt Ltd who owns a unit in the Apparel Park SEZ that shut down. Despite these issues, a few SEZ developers have done well with regard to usage of land. For instance, Kandla SEZ, Zydus SEZ, Reliance SEZ, TCS SEZ are among seven SEZs in Gujarat where 100 per cent of allotted land has been utilised.