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Gujarat govt "drops" its own plan to develop Bhavnagar port to help Dholera SIR off Gulf of Khambhat

By Rajiv Shah
In a major decision, the Gujarat government has dropped its plan to develop Bhavnagar port as an alternative to the Dholera port in the Gulf of Khambhat. It had had given up Dholera port following its decision to go ahead with the Kalpasar project as a huge sweet water lake by damming the. The state government had offered the top state industrial group, Adanis, to develop Bhavnagar port as alternative to Dholera port, which the Adanis were to develop in association with the JK Group, to provide Dholera special investment region (SIR) a major boost. Dholera SIR, to be developed south of Ahmedabad district, off Gulf of Khambhat, is proposed as a modern industrial-urban centre. To be developed in three phases, each of 10 years, so far no investors have shown interest in Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi's ambitious SIR.
In 2011, in an effort to provide a major boost to the future of industrialization along the Gulf of Khambhat, the state government had decided to allocate alternative sites near Bhavnagar and Dahej to the Adani Group and the Infrastructure Lease and Financial Services (IL&FS), respectively, for developing new ports. The state government’s decision came after a final nod to drop development of ports at Dholera and Khambhat, for which letters of intent (LoIs) were earlier issued to the Adanis and the IL&FS.
An internal official note of the state ports and transport department, prepared in August 2011, had said the two developers had “extended the Bank Guarantee towards LoIs to confirm their interest in development of ports at alternate locations.” The note had added, the Narmada, Water Resources, Water Supply and Kalpasar department had “approved modification in Kalpasar dam alignment”, leading to the need to relocate of Dholera and Khambhat ports “on the downstream of the proposed dam” – at Bhavnagar and Dahej.
However, the state government has now topsy-turvied its own decision, saying that Pipavav port, situated about 160 kilometres west of the Dholera SIR, would be more suitable for investors wanting to transport goods overseas from the SIR, instead of Bhavnagar, which is just about 65 km away. This has been made clear in the freshly prepared proposed Environment Impact Assessment report for Dholera Special Investment Region (SIR), prepared by the Senes Consultants India Pvt Ltd, prepared by the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation Ltd.
Rejecting the Bhavnagar port plan, the consultants, who have based their facts on information provided by the Gujarat government, have said, “The nearest port to the Dholera SIR is at Bhavnagar, at a distance of about 65 km. This port has a limited draft of four metres and is currently not operational.” They add, “The decision to go ahead with Kalpasar has meant that Dholera port would no longer be developed. Moreover, the draft at Bhavnagar is shallow and for all practical purposes the Dholera SIR will be catered to through Pipavav port.”
Connection between Dholera SIR and Pipavav
“Currently, the draft of Pipavav port is expected to be increased allowing the DSIR industries to export in larger volumes and reduce the logistics cost. Moreover, it is proposed to augment the capacities of Pipavav port and develop the port primarily for the purpose of handling containerized cargo. This proposed development is in line with the nature of industries proposed to be located in the Dholera SIR. Bulk of the production will required containerized transportation facilities”, the consultants said.
They added, “Pipavav port is proposed to be connected to the Dholera SIR through a dedicated toll road which will help in catering to the export-import needs of industries located in the Dholera SIR. This toll road is expected to be a key component in strengthening the connectivity of the Dholera SIR with its only port. In the absence of this toll road, the inputs for industries located in the Dholera SIR imported from other countries may reach the industry late. Absence of an expressway will also increase the operational cost of transporting goods from port to the DSIR.”
Meanwhile, “Indian Railways are doubling the existing BG line from Pipavav port northwards, which will increase rail capacity from there to Dholera and thus increase the speed and reliability of freight services to the DSIR and thus strengthen its attractiveness as an industrial location.” As for road connectivity, “government has plans to develop a six lane dual carriageway highway, with provision for up gradation to 10 lanes, between Dholera SIR and Ahmedabad and Bhavnagar and upgrade the existing National Highways and rail routes to Pipavav Port.”

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