Employment to be main criterion for coastal economic zones

Coastal Economic Zones (CEZs) may be renamed Coastal Employment Zones, keeping in view their job-generating potential and giving them an identity.

Union Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari’s favourite project will make employment generation the main condition while giving approval to industrial units looking at setting up shop in these zones.

Under its Sagarmala programme, the government had in July 2016 announced building 14 CEZs, which will be aligned to ports in maritime states. These will house Coastal Economic Units for setting up manufacturing facilities.

According to a senior official in the know, “The proposal to change the name and definition of CEZs was mooted by the NITI Aayog in the last inter-ministerial committee meeting. The focus of the economic zones will be on employment and have an identity distinct from that of the existing SEZs (special economic zones).”

It is learnt that the Ministry of Shipping has floated a Cabinet note for these zones and the response from the ministries concerned is awaited.

For promoting port-led industrialisation, 14 CEZs, covering all the maritime states and Union Territories, were identified as part of the National Perspective Plan under the Sagarmala programme. 

The perspective plans for all 14 CEZs were prepared in consultation with the state governments and central ministries concerned.

The idea behind port-led industrialisation through the proposed development of CEZs under the Sagarmala programme was to provide impetus to the Make In India initiative of the government.

The Sagarmala programme has four essential features — port modernisation, port connectivity, port-led industrialisation, and coastal community development. The CEZs fall in the third category.

Ports handle 90 per cent of the country’s EXIM cargo by volume and 70 per cent by value. Gujarat alone caters for 25-30 per cent of cargo traffic. Therefore, connecting the coastal areas to ports through port-led development was planned because proximity to the port brings down the logistics cost of a company substantially.

The 14 proposed sites are Kachchh, Suryapur and Saurashtra in Gujarat; North and South Konkan in Maharashtra; Dakshin Kanara in Karnataka; Malabar in Kerala; Mannar, VCIC South and Poompuhar in Tamil Nadu; VCIC Central and North in Andhra Pradesh; Kalinga in Odisha; and Gaud in West Bengal.