Explained: What is the Sabarmati River Front Development project, what it seeks to achieve

By channelling the river to a constant width of 263 m along the part that passes Ahmedabad city, 204 hectares have been reclaimed along the 11-km stretch of the Sabarmati Riverfront in the first phase of the project.

The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, in its draft budget for 2021-22, has set aside Rs 1,050 crore for the Sabarmati River Front Development phase 2, work on which is to begin soon. Here is what the project seeks to achieve.

How much land has been reclaimed so far to develop the Sabarmati Riverfront?

By channelling the river to a constant width of 263 m along the part that passes Ahmedabad city, 204 hectares have been reclaimed along the 11-km stretch of the Sabarmati Riverfront in the first phase of the project, on both the banks.

This land is excluding the Central Business District (CBD) area of 126 hectares. The reclaimed land includes roads, both upper and lower promenades, as well as the land to be developed.

As per the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation’s Special Purpose Vehicle, the Sabarmati River Front Development Corporation Ltd (SRDFCL), the main considerations in allocating land uses for the reclaimed portions have been existing land use along the river; extent, location and configuration of reclaimed land available; potential for development; the structural road network and form of the city; bridges; and the possibility of providing adequate infrastructure in the new development.

Which part of the Riverfront is the Central Business District (CBD)?

The 5-6 km stretch along Ashram Road, which is the city’s commercial artery, from Usmanpura to Ellisbridge on the west bank covering 126 hectares, and 52 hectares on the east bank from Gandhi bridge to Dadhichi bridge (Shahpur to Dudheshwar), is slated to be the new commercial hub.

The development here, on the lines of the Town Planning (TP) scheme applied across the city, will witness pedestrian-friendly roads, by requiring buildings to align their façades along the road side, wider roads requiring 6-metre wide arcade, and active frontage for pedestrians.

Both the AMC and AUDA (Ahmedabad Urban Development Corporation) will work on creating avenues for new development and redevelopment.

How will Sabarmati Riverfront Development (SRFD) act as a catalyst for the CBD?

The SRFDCL plans to offer incentives like a higher FSI (Floor Space Index or Floor Area Ratio), from the normal 1.8 to 5.4, to change the skyline of the city. The master plan, or development control regulations, aims to incentivise redevelopment by allowing three times more FSI.

The plots under SRFD phase 1, which have not been opened for auction yet, will permit buildings from six to 22 floors. Going by the built-up area, this will offer a total of 16.4 lakh square metre of saleable area, to be available in phases along both the banks of Sabarmati Riverfront.

While the permissible height of buildings in the CBD would depend upon the road width, the maximum permissible is 100 metre or what the Airport Authority of India (AAI) permits, whichever is less.

The Local Area Plan for the CBD, being developed by HCP Design, Planning and Management Private Limited, proposes to revive this central area by leveraging citywide connectivity through Bus rapid Transit System (BRTS), the proposed Metro and the development of the Sabarmati Riverfront Project.

Further, with increased street connectivity, the public transportation coverage is expected to double from the existing nearly 25 per cent. The green cover will also be doubled from the existing 20 per cent to 40 per cent.

How much is up for sale for private development on Sabarmati Riverfront?

Out of the 204 hectares reclaimed land, 85 per cent will be devoted to public amenities. Only 14 per cent — 29.5 hectares — has been earmarked for commercial development through auctioning.

This makes a total 50 plots, the size varying from 1142 square metre to 6100 square metre and a ground coverage of 14 hectares. FSI will be offered depending upon the plot size, officials said.

The project aims to be self-financing – to achieve its goals without relying on any funding from the government. Resources to pay for developing the riverfront and managing it are to be recovered through this portion of the reclaimed land, which will be sold for commercial development.

“The private development that will be built on the riverfront shall be carefully controlled by volumetric regulations to ensure that the built environment along the riverfront is harmonious and has a memorable skyline,” an SRFDCL official stated.

How far has SRFD phase 1 fared in terms of commercial and residential development from private players?

Keshav Varma, chairman of SRDFCL said, “The response from the Expression of Interest (EOI), floated recently (for phase 2), is very positive, monetising land would depend upon how the real estate market trend is. We won’t sell in depressed market scenario and we shall be continuously reviewing the market trends.”

However, tenders were floated by SRFDCL once in May 2017, inviting bids for only two plots – one towards Gandhi Bridge and the other towards Nehru Bridge – both close to the CBD. But they were withdrawn.

The tenders back then pitched for “new volumetric design guidelines to allow developers to create iconic buildings, allowing FSI of more than 6, higher than the adjacent CBD zone”.

With the market low post demonetisation, authorities withdrew the tender even before they could go under the hammer. There were also fears of flooding then, in the event of heavy rains. However, the SRFDCL claims the project can sustain flood levels of 4.75 lac cusecs without spillage into the city.

How will the Sabarmati be different from riverfronts abroad (like Austin, Singapore, S Korea)?

Sabarmati being a rain-fed river, its banks provides a huge canvas to developers, as the river runs dry most of the year. Therefore, SRFDCL officials say it cannot be compared to other riverfronts.

The river front has charted spaces for the traditional activities along the river, such as for a dhobi ghat and a Gujri bazaar, which is the Sunday flea market, that are lifelines for hundreds of city dwellers.

To keep the river along the riverfront flowing with water, the Gujarat government feeds it waters of the Narmada river, from the Narmada canal that crosses the Sabarmati a few kilometres away from Ahmedabad. The government is working on a more sustainable alternative to divert the treated sewage from the treatment plants into the Sabarmati river.

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