Like a prize fighter on the mat who is saved from being counted out, by the timely bell signalling the end of the round, the much touted, long delayed Smart City project of the Kerala state government, survives this week to enter what is hopefully the last round: The Dubai-based promoters and the state government inked an agreement that overcomes the contentious legalese over who 'owns' some of the land, and who is free to sell it. The project aimed at creating a world class infotech habitat in Kerala's most developed city, was first mooted almost 7 years ago. A change of government saw a waning of official enthusiaasm and allegattions that the propject was essentially a real estate deal. The tortuous course of newgotiations between the promoters and the state government became the victim of acrimony -- and few would have betted a few weeks ago on it ever being completed. However political realism -- and the need to be seen as development-friendly led to some vigorous brokering in which a leading Indian entrepreneur with large Gulf based interests is said ro have played a calming role.
The agreement inked this week is not the end -- but it does untether the project from procedural constraints.
But 6 years is eternity in an Internet Age. Much has changed in the period. IT per se is no longer seen as the golden opportunity: BT or biotechnology is a challenger. Also, time has not stood still in Kochi.; In the interim a number of IT parks have come: The state-run InfoPark, the private Mutooth Technolopolis and another run by L&T, KINFRA's own tech part ( KINFRA is the Kerala state's infrastructure development arm)... As far as we can read between the lines of official hype -- all these parks are running below capacity. Smart City when it is ready for occupatiion -- which may be a year away, will have to join the queue.
This is not to say it won't -- finally -- make a difference to Kochi's underutilised potential to be the state's technology epicentre. But Smart City is beginning to look like a greart idea, whose peak of opportunity is past: now making it a success will be an ever bigger challenge.
Background news stories
6 years on, Smart City back on track(Indian Expres http://www.indianexpress.com/news/6-years-on--Smart-City-back-on-track/745543
Agreement reached on Smart City projec (The Hindu) http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/article1149158.ece
Kochi SmartCity project revived http://gulfnews.com/business/general/kochi-smartcity-project-revived-1.756168
Feb 5 2011