Dubai/Thiruvananthapuram: The long-delayed Smart-City project in Kochi, a venture between Dubai-based Tecom and the Kerala government, has been revived again, with the two sides ironing out their differences at a top-level meeting here yesterday.
At the end of the discussions, Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan announced that the agreement had been reached by the two sides about going ahead with the project.
The talks were led by Dubai World Group executive Ahmad Humaid Al Tayer for the Dubai team, and were assisted by UAE-based Keralite businessman M.A. Yousuf Ali.
The SmartCity project had been proposed in 2003, but a series of disagreements between the two parties created hurdles along the way.
The project then hit a major hurdle over a dispute related to freehold rights over 12 per cent of the land, and the right to sell the land.
The disagreements were resolved yesterday, with both parties agreeing that the SmartCity Kochi company would have freehold rights over 12 per cent of the land but not have alienable rights to it.
The project is proposed to be set up over 246 acres in Kochi, of which 133 acres have been given special economic zone status.
The state government will now have to get the remaining 113 acres also approved under special economic zone status.
Work on the project is expected to start as soon as the final approval is given to the master plan of the project by the two sides.
The fresh breakthrough in the SmartCity project is expected to give a political boost to the Left Democratic Front government in Kerala, ahead of the upcoming assembly polls. The accord on the SmartCity project will also help change the image that business houses were not finding the investment climate in the state to their liking.
Congress leaders criticised the long delay in launching the project. Congress MLA V.D. Satheesan said it was the LDF leadership that had created disputes in the project and they had no reason to take credit now, after having solved the problems they themselves created.
Yousuf Ali said he had taken an active interest in mediating between the two sides because of the job opportunities it would give to thousands of youth in Kerala, particularly young women.
A memorandum of understanding for the project was first signed during the Oommen Chandy government in Kerala, but the project then got into disputes and seven years have passed since then.