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Check out how Kochi is shining!
George Joseph in Kochi
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October 06, 2005

Kochi, the Queen of Arabian Sea, which has been a shadow of its past for a long time, is now in the limelight as one of the most actively emerging cities not only in India but in South Asia.

A host of development projects are likely to transform Kochi into a key centre of development in South India.

An estimated investment of Rs 25,000 crore (Rs 250 billion), both public and private, is in the pipeline seeking to make it an emerging hub of IT and sea-based industries.

According to chief minister Oommen Chandy, sanctions had been accorded for investment of Rs 16,000 crore (Rs 160 billion) in and around Kochi over the next five years by the Centre.

He added that of the Rs 22,000 crore (Rs 220 billion) central investment proposed in Kerala, Rs 16,000 crore has been earmarked for Kochi alone.

The development of Kochi is really based on Vypin island as the most important projects have been proposed there.

The Vallarpadam International Container Terminal (VICT) is the flagship project of Kochi for which a road is being built and work on a rail link will start soon.

This Rs 1,800 crore (Rs 18 billion) project is being constructed by Dubai Port International (DPI) and as part of the agreement DPI is now operating the Rajiv Gandhi Container Terminal (RGCT).

The Rs 7,500 crore (Rs 75 billion) project for setting up the first port-based special economic zone will be a major turning point in the development of both Kochi and Kerala. This will be established at Vallarpadam as part of the international container terminal.

The chief minister had announced that the foundation stone for the proposed LNG terminal will be laid by the prime minister on November 1.

After Dahej, the second LNG project, proposed to set up at Puthuvype, will be a shot in the arm to development of Kerala and for industries in South India.

The project, promoted by Petronet LNG [Get Quote], will receive imported natural gas of 5 million tonne from Qatar and Iran and envisages a total investment of Rs 3,000 crore (Rs 30 billion).

The work on a single buoy mooring (SBM) project offshore by Kochi Refineries Limited (KRL) will commence soon, according to KRL sources. The project with a total outlay of Rs 750 crore (Rs 7.50 billion) will help the refinery drastically cut down crude shipment cost.

Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) also proposes to invest around Rs 3,500 crore (Rs 35 billion) and its major initiative is setting up a petrochemical complex at the Kochi division of FACT by using natural gas.

The Kochi-Kannur-Bangalore gas pipeline at an estimated investment of Rs 750 crore (Rs 7.50 billion) and an LNG supply network for Kochiites for domestic consumption are the other projects in the pipeline.

Indicating a new era in the IT development of Kerala, Dubai Internet City had already signed an MoU with the state government for setting up a smart city at Kakkanad near Kochi. The formal agreement for the project will be signed by December, the chief minister said recently.

The proposed project envisages creating 33,000 jobs and will show case almost all the major IT companies of the world.

The Centre proposes to transform Kochi Shipyard into one of the largest and most modern ship building centres in Asia in line with Korea and Japan. Shipping minister T R Balu had stated the facilities at the yard will be improved and a new ship building unit will be established either at the same premises or near Vallarpadam terminal.

Since Kochi is one of the most fascinating tourist spots in Kerala, both the Kerala government and Kochi Port Trust (KPT) are keen on the development of its tourism infrastructure. In association with Trans Resources Corporation of Malaysia, Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC), a marina will be established at Kochi.

According to K C Venugopal, tourism minister, the Rs 50 crore (Rs 500 million) JV will be ready in six months. As more luxury liners come to Kochi, KPT will build a berth of international standard exclusively for passenger ships. There is also a proposal by the tourism department for an international standard golf course at Vallarpadam.

The Kochi metro rail project is another key initiative aimed at improving the mass transportation system in Kochi and the process is at an advanced stage now. A number of private investment proposals are also on the anvil, especially in the IT sector.

Infosys [Get Quote] and the Leela group are the major players in setting up campuses in Kochi. A lot of small and medium IT companies are also starting their units. An Italian company is also in the process of setting up an apparel park at the KINFRA park near Kakkanad.

It is almost certain that Smart City project will also get the status of special economic zone as the DIC is keen on getting the status. The declaration of Aroor, Cherthala areas as town of excellence by the Centre will boost the marine export industry and will be an added advantage to the development of Kochi.

The development and diversification plans of Kochi Refinery and FACT are the other major development initiatives of Kerala and Kochi will be the major economic centre of India within a short period.

Real estate boom

The various projects have unleashed a huge spurt in the land value in Kochi and adjacent areas like Tripunitura, Kakkanad and Vypin island. Land prices have rocketted by around 500 per cent in and around Kochi.

As Kochi is congested, its suburbs have become the nerve centre of real estate activities and the main beneficiary of the price rise. Thanks to the opening of Goshree bridge connecting Vypin island to the mainland, prices there have shot up to Rs 2-3 lakh, compared to just Rs 20,000-30,000 about an year ago.

About 30 major hotel projects and over 50 apartment projects are at various stages of construction to cater to the needs of the emerging city within a few years time. The value of flats has increased to Rs 50 lakh to Rs 1 crore in the most fancied areas like Marine Drive.

But when it compares with the huge increase in demand for residential flats and houses, a lot more is needed for the Queen of Arabian Sea.

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