Kerala does not have much land to spare. Ideas such as the National Investment and Manufacturing Zone hence help.

On the map, Kerala is a sliver of land sandwiched between the sea and the mountains. Land thus is at a premium in the State.

With this handicap, the State needs to carefully plan much-needed industrial development, building up industrial infrastructure. It is a strategy to improve the industrial profile of the State, apart from adding value to real estate ventures.

The Kochi-Palakkad National Investment and Manufacturing Zone (NIMZs) seems to fit the bill.

The Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC) has prepared a report on the project, which is expected to provide an impetus to the industrial development of Ernakulam, Thrissur, Malappuram and Palakkad districts.

NIMZs are integrated industrial townships with state-of-the-art infrastructure. The Union government’s policy on such zones envisages introduction of clean, energy-efficient technologies and social and institutional infrastructure to ensure a productive environment. They should preferably come up on waste, infertile land outside ecologically fragile areas.

The Kochi-Palakkad zone is expected to utilise the infrastructure and projects such as the LNG terminal at Puthuvype in Kochi, the Vallarpadam international container transshipment terminal and the pipeline network of GAIL (India) Ltd. carrying re-gasified LNG from Kochi to Bangalore through Palakkad.

The zone is meant to help create a strong base for ventures that provide a competitive edge to the zone and the State.

With green technology, the zone can play a pivotal role in attracting foreign investments, providing scope for large employment opportunities and improving the industrial output and exports substantially. The KSIDC has conceived the project as a global manufacturing and trading hub.

Linkages

The report points out that the manufacturing sector has strong forward and backward linkages.

It can spur activity in the non-manufacturing sectors. As the manufacturing sector in the country contributes to only 15 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product, a thrust on manufacturing sector in potential zones can convert it into an engine of growth, it says.

The proposal is to establish state-of the-art industrial and commercial infrastructure across 20 identified “nodes” for the zone. A 50-km band on the Kochi-Palakkad highway will be the “spine” of the project, with a project influence area of 8,000 sq.km. The required infrastructure includes internal roads, drainage, water treatment plants, internal water supply system, rainwater harvesting, internal electrification, sewage treatment plants, common effluent treatment plants and solid-waste management.

Infrastructure development will require Rs. 50,000 crore, which includes the cost of land, a dedicated freight corridor, road linkages, water-supply systems and gas-based power plants and units for generation of non-conventional power. Logistics support services, export- and import-handling agencies and packaging services will be among the support services required. External infrastructure required includes road connectivity to the individual nodes from the National or the State highways, rail connectivity, a high-tension or extra high-tension power substation with a transmission system and water intake from water sources. In the services sector, there will be opportunity for establishment of schools, hospitals, banks, shopping centres and hotels.

As much as 5,000 hectares of land is required for setting up 20 nodes of the zone. Various agencies of the government have 1,700 hectares with them. Another 3500 hectares will have to be acquired in the four districts.

Special purpose vehicles will be incorporated for promoting the manufacturing zone to be set up in a public-private participatory mode.

Gas-based power plants and units to generate power from non-conventional sources will play a significant role in the project. A total capacity of 2,500 MW is required in the region to feed electricity to individual nodes.

The LNG terminal and the gas pipeline network are expected to allow gas-based power generation.

As much as 250 MW of power can be generated from solar energy and 50 MW from wind energy.