SmartCity Kochi dream takes another beating

The long-standing dream of the Kochi SmartCity project - projected as an infrastructure project that would help that city and Kerala move into another gear of economic development - has suffered another stinging blow.

State Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan publicly expressed doubts about the competence of the Dubai-based Technology and Media Free Zone Authority (Tecom) to undertake the project, stating that they were themselves in trouble. Tecom is the state government's partner in the project.

Mr Achuthanandan said that the Dubai company was in a "really pathetic" condition and that they were raising points that were not in the original agreement for the project, adding that the state government would go ahead with the project even in the absence of Tecom. He went on to suggest that a similar project Tecom has in Malta may also not be doing too well.

The Chief Minister has been critical of Tecom in the past but the latest outburst against the Dubai company has given the impression that the state government-Tecom association for the SmartCity project is in deep trouble. The CM had himself laid the foundation stone for the Rs 1,700-crore project two years ago, after which there has been little progress on the project.

Among the main stumbling blocks for the project is a demand by Tecom for freehold status on 12 per cent of the land for the project but the state government is not in agreement with the suggestion, arguing that it was not part of the original understanding.

The Chief Minister said on Wednesday that if the government was going ahead with another partner, it would do that only after talking to SmartCity officials. This is the second time in a fortnight that the Chief Minister is suggesting that the Dubai company may have suffered owing to the financial setback in the Arab world owing to the crisis in the US.

The real estate market in Kakkanad in Kochi, that had soared on the wings of the SmartCity project, is expected to take another correction following the development. The realty market had already dipped owing to the economic slowdown, and further delay in realizing the SmartCity project may dent the market more.

The project envisages 88 lakh sq ft of built-up space on a 246-acre campus and creation of about 90,000 direct jobs.



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