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How banks of River Sabarmati have turned fertile for offices, houses

May 18, 2017 14:25 IST

Resettlement of 12,000 families living on banks of Sabarmati Riverfront cost Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation about Rs 1,200 crore

Image: The Sabarmati riverfront at Ahmedabad. Photograph: PTI Photo

The banks of the Sabarmati, which flows through the city, will soon boast of a skyline of hotels, malls and corporate offices.

A little over a decade ago, the Sabarmati was nothing but a parched riverbed, with puddles of industrial effluents and sewage. It was a hotbed of water-borne diseases, with slums mushrooming along the banks.

With the Gujarat Cabinet approving volumetric building by-laws and auction for plots as part of the Sabarmati Riverfront Development project, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) expects Rs 6,000 crore (Rs 60 billion) from sales.

About 12.5 million sq feet of land for development is up for grabs for private developers and corporate houses. They can construct offices, commercial complexes, hospitality projects or residential towers. The AMC is also conducting roadshows across metro cities for plot auctions.

“The purpose of such roadshows is to showcase the project and invite bids for the e-auction. Citizens who were disconnected from the river due to pollution can now
be connected,” said Mukesh Kumar, municipal commissioner and managing director of Sabarmati Riverfront Development Corporation Ltd (SRFDCL) - the special purpose vehicle for the project.

The project was delayed due to litigation surrounding resettlement of slum dwellers. These issues were resolved recently. The local body used the gestation period to create demand around the project through public space development.

“We took a few years to reclaim the land and create an emotional connect among citizens by creating public spots like parks and gardens, besides facilities for water sports, air show and flower show. The Cabinet’s approval now sets us up for private development,” Kumar said.

Resettlement of about 12,000 families cost the body about Rs 1,200 crore (Rs 12 billion), half of the project’s cost of Rs 2,500 crore (Rs 25 billion).

Designed by city-based HCP Designs and CEPT University, the project draws its inspiration from riverfront skylines of Paris, San Francisco, Chicago and London, which led to the formation of specific volumetric building by-laws. Unlike other building by-laws, volumetric ones allow SRFDCL to sell plots based on volume instead of area. The by-laws also allow the body to fix varying floor space index  (FSI) for different plots.

“A total of 51 plots - 26 on the eastern bank and 25 on the western bank - will be put up for sale. We are not selling spaces based on area but on volume.

Hence, if we are selling a volume of five floors on a plot, then the developer will have to build five floors, not more or less. Unlike in other parts of the city, every plot has a separate FSI. Also, the volumetric by-laws state land outside the building belongs to the local body with no boundary walls,” Kumar said.

The project is stretched across 22 km, 11 km on each side of the river. Of the 2.25 million sq metres of land, only 14.5 per cent, or about 326,730 sq metres, is planned to be sold for private development, allowing development on 12.5 million sq feet for private sector participation.

This, Kumar said, would be used to attract major corporate houses, on the lines of GIFT (Gujarat International Finance Tec-City).

“Corporate houses can have their Gujarat or western headquarters there. Premium hospitality projects can also come up,” Kumar added.

The local body is taking the help of the Confederation of Indian Industry to reach out to the private sector in Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Bengaluru to attract bids.

The e-auction started on May 5 and will continue till June 5 on SRFDCL’s platform. Once awarded, the winner will have to complete the project within six years.

The AMC has also announced the second phase of the riverfront project, a detailed report of which is being prepared.

“Realisation from the existing project will be used to develop the second phase, which will cost around Rs 500 crore,” Kumar added.

Vinay Umarji in Ahmedabad
Source: source image