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The first phase of Rs20 billion SmartCity Kochi, a proposed self-sustained industry township for knowledge-based companies in Kerala, south India, and promoted by Dubai Holding, has finally being inaugurated on Saturday after facing numerous road blocks.
SmartCity Kochi is the second offshore hub of Dubai Holding after SmartCity Malta and holds 84 per cent stake and the rest 16 per cent by Kerala Government.
The much-delayed project was inaugurated by Oommen Chandy, Chief Minister; Mohammad Al Gargawi, UAE Minister of Cabinet Affairs and Chairman of Dubai Holding; Ahmad Binbyat, Vice-Chairman and MD, Dubai Holding; P.K. Kunhalikutty, Minister for Industries and IT and Chairman of SmartCity Kochi; Yousuf Ali M.A., Special Invitee to the Board of SmartCity; Sunny Varkey, Chairman, GEMS group; Jaber Bin Hafez, Vice-Chairman, SmartCity Kochi, among others.
The project, first envisaged in 2004, got delayed due to various legal and political issues and had to undergo many changes in the framework agreement.
Dr Baju George, Interim CEO at SmartCity Kochi, told Gulf News that 27 IT companies have already leased out 75 per cent of the leasable space in the first IT tower (6.5 lakh square feet).
SmartCity, spread over 246 acres, would be developed in three phases. Once all the three phases are completed in 2020, it is expected to generate more than 90,000 direct jobs.
Once fully operational, George said that the Phase 1, with an investment of Rs4 billion, can generate a minimum of 5,000 job opportunities in one shift. This may go up as many of the companies may run more than one shift here.
He said a company in SmartCity Kochi can have virtual presence or physical presence in the SmartCity in Dubai or Malta.
George said that almost all of the pending issues have been solved except a couple of land-encroachment issues, ranging from 4 to 6 cents, which are awaiting judicial decisions and adequate road developments.
The lack of adequate approach roads into the SmartCity, which has to be borne by the Kerala government, topped the list of grievances aired by the Dubai-based promoters.
"Developing the infrastructure facilities like roads, bridges and power supply had to be done before the commencement of the construction process,” Hafez said. George said that the remaining issues are not going to impact the immediate process but as the critical mass is increased, new roads have to be there otherwise the project will hit a bottleneck.
Kerala government has said that they will do it but needs time as they have to approve the budget.
The Phase 2 of 4.7-million square feet of office space has also been launched. It will have seven towers in it. including the tallest IT tower in India in the 1.8-million square feet project by Sands Infrabuild, the IT division of Lulu Group.
The second phase which will generate about 60,000 jobs, would also feature non-IT buildings as well. Phase 2 is expected to be completed within 30 to 36 months.
George said the third phase will also have a hotel and a hotel apartment.
Source: Naushad K Cherrayil, Staff Reporter, gulfnews.com