The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Speciality cities home in on Bengal

Calcutta, July 30: A cluster of speciality cities could sprout on the outskirts of Calcutta, if a foreign conglomerate’s proposal comes through.

Salim Group, the 10-billion Indonesian enterprise, today showcased preliminary plans to develop a sprawling industrial zone and township in South 24-Parganas, putting the spotlight on the real estate potential in the state and boosting the Bengal government’s drive to attract foreign investment.

Christened Calcutta International Economic Zone, the project involves proposals to set up new-age facilities spread over 5,100 acres in South 24-Parganas.

The group also expressed interest in building a road linking Barasat and Amtala in South 24-Parganas and a bridge between Raichak and Haldia. Lack of infrastructure is one of the key areas of concern in the state’s campaign to draw investments.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who was briefed about the project today, responded with enthusiasm.

“We do not have anything like this in our country and the project is indeed unique. I have really liked the proposal,” Bhattacharjee said after an hour-long meeting with Salim Group executive director Benny Santoso and his team at Writers’ Buildings.

The chief minister looked keen to finalise “a lot of things” before his trip to Singapore and Indonesia on August 22. “We have tentatively identified the land but they will have to see it. If they like it, we will set up a team to speed up land acquisition,” Bhattacharjee.

He added that his government would refrain from acquiring fertile land and wetlands. “We have to play the role of the facilitator to development and we will do it.”

A map of the area had been shown to him, Santoso said. “That is quite acceptable to us. We know it is not the over-7,000 acres that comprise Rajarhat, but we are happy with 5,000 acres.”

Rajarhat covers housing and information technology but Salim Group’s project proposes to have more segments.

According to a blueprint drawn up by Hong Kong-based architect firm RMJM, 2,500 acres will be required for the township ' which will include a health city, an education city, an IT city, a golf city and a cultural centre ' and some 2,600 acres for the industrial zone and ancillary facilities.

“What we have presented is a conceptual design and we would work on it with inputs from the government. PricewaterhouseCoopers has done a feasibility study but we haven’t yet worked out the cost,” Santoso said.

Planning for the education, health and IT cities was still at a preliminary stage. “However, in the case of the health city, I could give the example of the general hospital complex in Singapore and say that is the model we are going to follow. Everything will be of international standards,” Santoso said.

The education city will have centres of excellence and learning as well as those of higher education, he said, stressing that everything was still at an exploratory stage.

Overall, the emphasis would be on the ancillary cities rather than on the township. “It would be really a lot of speciality cities making up the bulk of the project,” he said.

His group is already setting up a township in West Howrah and has signed a pact for a motorcycle project.

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