What happened to Dholera smart city project?

The idea…

Modi-ji imagined a high tech city like in Japan or Singapore. Not like 70 yrs old British style cities, that Congress couldn’t even maintain. There would be international airport and everything will be smart. Road network and smart lights. It will be a city of future. Everything will be digital in this 900 sq km city. Business setup would not be hassle anymore. Tidal energy would be utilized to power the smart city. $2.7 billion was total cost estimated for Dholera special investment region. It was expected to be built in Gujarat coastal area.

Problems faced

Dholera project has not faced any political problem as such, like usually happens when there is change in power. But companies are not willing to set up operations here even after showing initial interest. Recently, ISMC digital, one of the 3 applicants for $10 billion initiative for semiconductor manufacturing showed interest. But before the process could start, the factory focus shifted to Karnataka, for better incentives and better water supply.

Planning could be one of the problems. Monsoon time fills this low lying Dholera area with water, which will affect industrial operations. Dholera farmers’ land was taken in the name of infrastructural development, in violation of land acquisition law, 2013. Many companies silently exited from Dholera. Like HCC’s 40k-crore waterfront city.

Also, thinking is limited as we narrow infrastructure to roads and buildings. There is more to city life like in the case of Dubai that also started on similar grounds, despite being part of a kingdom, people can go clubbing, dancing, drinking, etc. If people are to come from globally they want this freedom. Here, the Dholera city is 100 km away, and there is prohibition in the state, alcohol is illegal, there are less facilities so who will come?

Previous smart city projects

Many smart city projects were started with no great endings. Amravati was supposed to be first smart city, near Krishna River, foundation stone set up in 2015 in presence of PM Narendra Modi. It was supposed to give competition to Singapore, 260 sq km planned city. Then Govt changed (YSR congress) and led to unraveling of Chandrababu Naidu corruption files, and project was put on hold.

Lavasa, another city, (this was a private one), good start and award winning team but ultimately Lavasa was also closed for corruption involved. As far as Dholera is concerned, it will remain an ambitious project of Modi ji. But it may not be a vibrant smart city but just a factory hub on the Delhi Mumbai corridor.

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