A pet project of PM Modi, Dholera smart city has been shaping up at some speed. The first phase, spread over 22.5 sq km, is expected to be completed by 2025-26, officials say.
Large tracts of lush green fields, farmers tending to crops, villagers sitting in the open on cots, cattle roaming around — the rural setting as one enters Dholera village, some 100 km southwest of Ahmedabad, is quite a contrast to the shiny, hi-tech new industrial city that is coming up in the vicinity as a part of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC).
A pet project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Dholera, in fact, will be the first and largest of the eight greenfield industrial cities planned under DMIC to get off the drawing board. Being built upon a large swathe of undeveloped land, this “smart city”, so dubbed because of its use of technology and data, is also expected to be the home of Foxconn-Vedanta’s $20 billion semiconductor fabrication plant.
Overall, the Dholera Special Investment Region (DSIR) spans 920 sq km, encompassing some 22 villages. Currently, a bulk of the infrastructure development is happening on a 22.5 sq km area of the DSIR, called the activation zone.
With both the Centre and the Gujarat government pumping in money, work on the ground is moving at a hectic pace and the first phase of Dholera smart city is expected to be completed by 2025-26, a senior official of Dholera Industrial City Development Limited (DICDL), the Special Purpose Vehicle set up to implement the project, told ThePrint.
When ThePrint visited, the Greenfield city was taking shape brick by brick, mostly in the activation zone.
“We are developing the infrastructure in the activation zone first. The land allotment process has already been started. By 2025-2026, the activation area is expected to be blooming with industrial operations and residential living,” a senior DICDL official told ThePrint.
Back when the DSIR project was approved and the government started acquiring land, farmers had protested, but the agitation died down after the government offered a generous compensation package. While some concerns remain, locals now are largely hopeful about the development and prospects that the project will bring.
What’s been done so far?
Though the DMIC has been in the works for more than a decade now, work on developing Dholera started only in 2016. Larsen & Toubro was given the contract in 2017 to develop the roads and services in the activation zone.
Wide blacktop roads have been laid with trunk infrastructures like potable water lines, wastewater collection ducts, storm water drains, power distribution, and ICT(Internet Communication Technology) network running underneath.
Work is also on to set up a 4,400 MW capacity solar park that will power the industries and residences in Greenfield city. Facilities such as water treatment plants, elevated reservoirs for storing potable and recycled water, and common effluent treatment plants are in various stages of construction; a handful has been completed.
A maritime park comprising a 6.5-km artificial canal is being readied that will run alongside the residential and commercial zones. Almost 2.2 km of the canal with seating arrangements, landscaped gardens, and the like is ready. A recreational zone, named Silk Route, with an open amphitheater is being given the final touches.
Sectors demarcating residential, institutional, commercial, and industrial zones have been carved out in the activation zone and signages put up. The sectors have also been named — Agni Path, Shanti Path, Neer Path, and Vayu Path.
The city will cater to a population of 2 lacks. The official added that 99 percent of underground utility and trunk infrastructure is ready in the activation zone.
Work on a four-lane expressway connecting Ahmedabad to Dholera is underway and a new international airport, located 15 km from the city, is expected to be operational by 2024. Right now, the nearest airport in Ahmedabad is located 117 km away.
Talks are also on to extend the Bhimnath-Dholera rail freight line for the movement of cargo. The nearest railway station is Bhavnagar, approximately 60 km away. “The Western Railway has already approved the Detailed Project Report, and further planning on establishing this rail link is under progress,” a second DICDL official said.
Once operational, Dholera will be among a handful of greenfield cities — including Chandigarh, Bhubaneswar, Gandhinagar, and Naya Raipur — that have come up in India post-Independence. It took a long time for many of them to come to life. Naya Raipur, for instance, continues to be largely uninhabited even today.
However, officials are convinced that the same fate will not befall Dholera.
Dholera is a planned city with industrial establishments as a part of bringing a walk-to-work culture, thereby setting up a holistic environment for industries and its citizens, Hareet Shukla, managing director, DICDL, told ThePrint. “In all these industrial corridors, the idea is to build trunk infrastructure with a plug-and-play utility network made available at the plot level.”
From Tata to Vedanta-Foxconn, a wait for industries:
While 99 percent of the trunk infrastructure in the activation zone is ready, DICDL is now waiting for big anchor firms to set up units in Dholera. So far, land has been allotted to two big private firms — Tata Power and ReNew. “ReNew has started work on the ground,” said a DICDL official.
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