Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Development projects offered salt land sweetener by Nath



NEW DELHI: At a time when India Inc is scrambling to acquire large
tracts of land for industrial development, especially special economic
zones (SEZ), commerce & industry minister Kamal Nath has offered more
than 5,000-acre salt pan land for development projects. The move is of
significance since there is no problem in using salt pan land for SEZs
unlike multi-crop agricultural land the acquisition of which has been
barred. Moreover, a large chunk salt land is located in Mumbai and
Chennai where land prices are steep.

Among the major projects that could benefit from Mr Kamal Nath's offer
is the Mumbai airport. The Maharashtra government, the Centre and the
GVK-led consortium which manages the airport are in consultation to
rehabilitate slum-dwellers encroaching the airport on salt pan lands.

According to details compiled by the department of industrial policy &
promotion (DIPP), nearly 5,378 acres of salt pan land could be freed for
development purposes. Salt pan lands are available in various other
states like Tamil Nadu too, highly-placed government sources said. The
salt department is part of DIPP and is represented by the salt

Some salt pan land in Tamil Nadu is being allotted to public sector
companies like HPCL. This includes areas identified at Ennore near
Chennai for port expansion and a power project. Tamil Nadu Industrial
Development Corp (Tidco) is also in talks for using salt lands for a
SEZ, the sources said.

Mr Kamal Nath feels use of salt lands for industrial development could
make a significant impact in Mumbai. "Several rounds of negotiations
have already been held with state government authorities," the sources
said. The hurdles that need to be overcome are litigation and
encroachment so that these lands can be put to good use. "In Mumbai,
salt pan lands are spread all over the city and the current value is in
thousands of crores if litigation and encroachment are overcome," they

A key proposal under consideration is to use salt pan lands in Mumbai to
relocate the slums that are encroaching airport land. If the slums are
not relocated, expansion and modernisation of Mumbai airport would be
impossible. The GVK-South African Airports consortium, which manages the
airport, has not been able to get land for expansion since encroaching
slums have not been cleared.

Salt pan lands could also come in handy for facilitating SEZ projects
near Mumbai, the sources said. Once corporates acquire land in areas
like Navi Mumbai, salt pan lands could be used for rehabilitation of
oustees. These lands are fit for residential purposes except in the case
of creek lands which are unsuitable for development, the sources said.

As the government has terminated the lease of several salt works, nearly
1,852 acres of land could be made available for development. However,
some of the sat works have moved court against termination of licences.
In the case of another 1,827 acres of land, officials have cited
ownership disputes involving 21 salt works.

In Kanjur village alone, nearly 350 acres of land is in clear possession
of the salt commissioner. In addition, another 350 acres is now being
used by the Maharashtra government as dumping ground.

In Mumbai, there are more than a dozen plots of 5 acres which are being
offered to the Mumbai Port Trust for relocating encroachers holding up
development of a container terminal. Nearly 98 acres of land has been
handed over to the ministry of urban development for socio-economic
projects while the government has handed over 27 acres to a private
party following a Supreme Court verdict.



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