Why a Navi Mumbai Village Could Set a Model For Smart Cities

It is no secret that land acquisition is the biggest hurdle to any major infrastructure project in India. Projects can get delayed for years and go massively over-budget by the time it is resolved. But at the Make in India event held recently, villagers from Khalapur broke that trend by giving up their land voluntarily to the government.

Giving up land for a better future

Farmers from 11 villages including the Khalapur Nagar Panchayat, Kalote and Nadode gram panchayat have come together to give up nearly 3550 acres of land so that the government can build a new smart city – the Khalapur Smart City. Their hope is that the new smart city will help spur growth and development in the region, benefitting future generations.

“We are doing this because the new generation will benefit from this project. More than 2 lakh jobs will be created here and the people’s standard of living will increase” says Navin Ghatwal, one of the villagers from Khalapur.

SPV to build new smart city
The villagers of Khalapur Nagar Panchayat, Kalote and Nadode gram panchayat will form a special purpose vehicle (SPV) which will develop social infrastructure on the land along with town planning agency CIDCO. The total cost estimated for this entire project is Rs. 7,909 crores, which will be split between Khalapur SPV and CIDCO. 15% of the land will be used by CIDCO to build growth centers and peripheral infrastructure over the next 10 years.

“We will take care of the city and peripheral level development in the region, including the building of roads, metros and a sewage plant. We are very hopeful that this will become successful”, says Sanjay Bhatia, MD & Vice-Chairman of CIDCO.

An alternative to traditional land acquisition?

Experts say this model is a viable alternative to traditional land acquisition efforts which can be very time consuming. But care must be taken to ensure that the stakeholders remain happy with the arrangement

“While they have given their power of attorney to use this property for a particular purpose, if the compensation or return is not what was promised to them, there can be a lot of issues in maintaining this group of people together. And then it can be a huge task for government to once again prepare them to come together, warns Gulam Zia, Executive Director at Knight Frank India.

Similar models have been successful in the development of Magarpatta and Nanded city in Pune, but both of these were private initiatives. If more land owners are to be convinced into voluntarily giving up their land, the government must set an example and ensure that this project is done successfully.

Ashwini Priolker, Reporter, NDTV


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