Stand-off between State, SmartCity over SEZ status

The State government has asked the Dubai-based promoters of the SmartCity project, TECOM Investments, to show some progress in the work. The promoters, meanwhile, want the State government to leverage its influence to secure single Special Economic Zone (SEZ) status for the entire project area from the Central government.

This stand-off has cast doubts over the completion of the SmartCity Kochi project.

With yet another deadline for the completion of the first phase of the project likely to go awry, the State government recently wrote to Dubai-based SmartCity expressing its concern about the delay in getting the project off the ground.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had declared at the time of the inauguration of the pavilion of the project in June this year that the first phase would be completed within 18 months.

The anxiety on the part of the State government is unsurprising considering that it had come to power promising to implement the much hyped project in a time bound manner.

Master plan not final

SmartCity on its part claimed that while constructing a 3 lakh sq ft building as part of the first phase was not a big deal, it would not capture the essence of the knowledge city proposed in the city.

Baju George, managing director, SmartCity (India), said the more important thing was to get the entire 246 acres of the project notified as a single SEZ. Only 132 acres has been notified as SEZ while the rest is yet to be notified on account of a water body separating the two parcels of land.

“We can start the construction of the first building in the area already notified as SEZ. But a single building will not serve our idea of having a cluster of companies. Construction should take place simultaneously in multiple points. That calls for the finalisation of the master plan, which is possible only on receiving a single SEZ status,” Mr. George said.

He said the construction of the first building would begin in January as the environment clearance has been secured. Contractors have been shortlisted and Cannon Design, an international designing firm, is ready with the drawings, Mr. George said.

A final decision on the single SEZ notification was expected at a meeting of the Board of Approval (BoA) of SEZ of the Union Commerce Ministry held last week. But it was taken off the agenda at the last minute citing the need for a special meeting of the Union Commerce Ministry, Revenue Department, the State government, and SmartCity.

“We were told that such a meeting would be held this week. But we are yet to receive a date for the meeting despite both the State government and SmartCity taking up the issue with the Union government,” Mr. George said.

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Printable version | Apr 3, 2020 4:03:21 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/standoff-between-state-smartcity-over-sez-status/article4153477.ece

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