Gujarat plans satellite towns to decongest bigger cities

By P.S. Anantharaman, IANS,

Ahmedabad : The Gujarat government is drawing up a blueprint called ‘Rurban’ to create satellite urban centres to decongest its bigger cities. These towns will have rural souls with urban amenities, says Chief Minister Narendra Modi who has conceived this idea.

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The concept, according to government officials, will be marketed strongly at the January 2009 Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors Summit.

Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s commercial capital, is already being developed as a mega city and a host of urban development programmes are being implemented to make it more liveable.

Gujarat also has other cities such as Vadodara, Surat, Bhavnagar, Rajkot and Jamnagar that are witnessing rapid industrial growth and are becoming heavily congested. Mehsana, about 75 km from Ahmedabad, could also join this league as it is not far from the Ahmedabad-Dholera special economic region.

Officials said Modi has given a broad outline of the Rurban concept. According to him, it will be a “big village with a rural soul” but with all urban amenities that a city may have.

The inspiration for the concept has come after Tata Motors decided to relocate its Nano car project to Sanand, about 30 km from Ahmedabad, which has a large cluster of villages stretching up to Viramgam, 16 km away.

With the Tata group also planning a residential township in Sanand, the Nano project is expected to transform the sleepy town into a bustling urban centre boasting of amenities such as malls, entertainment complex and educational centres.

The officials said the time was ripe to attract investments for such projects. According to them, while the current economic situation could hit investment in the manufacturing sector, it would not impact the infrastructure sector as projects would invariably have long gestation periods.

Investors, both foreign and domestic, would not be averse to making investments in urban development projects, they were confident.

Gujarat, which is already seeking to capitalise on its strategy of port-led development, is pumping in an additional Rs.150 billion (nearly $3 bn) for developing port-related infrastructure, which includes development of new ports, special economic zones, connectivity with the hinterland, cold chain, shipbuilding yards, ship-repair facilities and inter-port transport systems.

The Rurban concept dovetails perfectly with this framework, the officials said.

An additional investment of about $100 billion is expected on account of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor project.

The project envisages development of identified industrial nodes as global manufacturing and commercial hubs. Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Bharuch, Valsad, Ankleshwar, Vapi and Dahej would all be nerve centres of industrial activity.