Kerala Silverline project: Government set to begin land acquisition

Even as the state government awaits the final clearance from the Centre for the much anticipated semi-high speed rail project, the state has begun the procedures for acquiring land for the project.

Of the 1,383 hectares (3417.46 acres) of land required for the project, 1,198ha (2960.32 acres) of land is private land. Since 86.6% of total land required for the project is private land, the heavy cost required for land acquisition, social impact assessment and the rehabilitation and resettlement has been estimated to cost Rs 11,837 crore, which is to be borne by the state government.

The government has already given the administrative sanction for availing a loan of Rs 2,100 crore from Kerala infrastructure investment fund board for meeting a portion of the cost of land acquisition for the project as part of the state share. The transport department had last week issued an order designating the Kerala Rail Development Corporation Ltd as the special purpose vehicle for the project, which will now execute a tripartite agreement with KIIFB and the transport department.

Though the final clearance is yet to be accorded by the ministry of railways and the department of economic affairs, the state is moving ahead with the “in-principle approval” for the project which has also permitted pre-investment activities up to Rs 100 crore. The government has taken a call that since the pre-investment activities have been approved, the land acquisition activities can be initiated based on the “in-principle approval”.

Further, the government has also decided to set up an exclusive land acquisition unit in the revenue department and also under the KRDCL with staff on contract basis. It has also been proposed to use the Bhoomi Rashi software used by the national highways authority of India for land acquisition.

The semi high-speed rail project, known as the Silverline project, is yet to overcome two barriers — clearances from the ministry of railways before which the detailed project report is pending, and the department of economic affairs under the ministry of finance, where the application for external funding is pending.

While the DPR is yet to be cleared by the railway ministry, the funding part for the Rs 62,941-crore project is yet to get a final shape as the proposal for external funding is pending before the department of economic affairs, which needs to clear it for external funding. The state government had submitted a proposal for availing foreign funds to the tune of Rs 33,700 crore for the project.

The state’s proposal to the DEA had said that the state is looking for funds from JICA, ADB, AIIB and KFW. The DEA had sought an undertaking from the state government that in case SPV fails in debt servicing, the liability will be borne by the state government, without any budgetary support from the ministry of railways. The matter is under the consideration of the state government.

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