Infrastructure advantage

Published : Feb 11, 2005 00:00 IST

Good road and rail connectivity is the key to Coimbatore's development. - S. SIVA SARAVANAN

Good road and rail connectivity is the key to Coimbatore's development. - S. SIVA SARAVANAN

The infrastructure of the district is being strengthened to meet the needs of its ever-growing business enterprises.

FOR further development of Coimbatore, infrastructure, especially good road and rail connectivity, is the key. Numerous projects are under way to provide the necessary infrastructure. Under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, the district administration has started work on improving the rural road connectivity. The project envisages connecting all habitations having more than 500 people. Tribal areas are also to be linked. Eighty-two kilometres of the Golden Quadrilateral four-lane road project runs through the district.

The district's power consumption is quite high. It draws over 500 MW of power a day from the State grid. Coimbatore generates hydel power; there are units on the Sholayar and the Sarkarpathi in Pollachi and the Nellithurai in Mettupalayam. The district also boasts of windmill farms that feed the grid.

The per capita bank advance in Coimbatore district is double the State's average - an important reason for the birth and growth of small and tiny units. The recovery rate is also very high; for small units it is over 80 per cent, the highest in the State.

Telecommunication connectivity in the district is high, especially after the cellular phone revolution. Over the past five years, the rate of cellular phone growth in Coimbatore has been double that of Chennai prompting almost all cellular telephone operators to start operations in the district.

In this rainfall-deficient region, with groundwater depleted to alarming levels, wells of up to 300 feet (about 90 metres) deep and borewells up to 700 ft deep are common. Aggravating the problem is the increasing use of water for non-agricultural purposes, and pollution by a cement unit at Madukarai and dyeing units at Pallipalayam, Kumarapalayam and Tirupur. To mitigate this, rainwater harvesting is being implemented rigorously throughout the district. Besides rainwater harvesting, the district administration is cleaning up village ponds and digging new ones, besides desilting canals and check dams.

A group of corporate houses decided to set up a trust called Project Siruthuli in June 2003 to promote the conservation and storage of water. Since then, Siruthuli has completed work on seven tanks. Say Shankar Vanavarayar, Mervyn Jussy and J. Satish: "With the tanks now full, following a good monsoon, the cost of cleaning the water bodies has been recovered." According to Siruthuli managing trustee Vanitha Mohan, the project has now become a "people's movement".

Under the New Anna Marumalarchi Thittam, the district administration has invested over Rs.1 crore per block for industrial enterprises in 385 blocks and set up an industrial estate exclusively for women (with the help of the Tamil Nadu Small Industries Development Corporation Limited) on 40 acres (16 hectares) in Kurichi taluk. It has set up an export guidance cell and a women entrepreneurship development programme.By merging all poverty-alleviation schemes, the Swarna Jayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana was implemented in the State. This project aims to generate employment and add value to agriculture. The projects selected under the scheme are agro-based and range from coir-making, pith-making, dairying, sericulture and button mushroom cultivation to processing various farm produce. Over 8,000 self-help groups for women have been set up with a membership of 1,20,000. As part of the rural non-conventional energy programme, 150 biogas units have been installed in 19 blocks and 283 schools have been built in 23 blocks. The district administration has successfully completed its 100 per cent sanitation coverage programme in 10 villages. The new industrial complex at Ettiveerampalayam village on National Highway 47 houses the country's first privately promoted apparel park on 166 acres (66.4 ha). Housing 53 knitwear units, the Rs.300-crore Nethaji Apparel Park (NAP) on the road to Perumanalur from Avinashi, apart from catering to the industry's need for state-of-the-art facilities, is a boon to the local people. Well-laid roads, greenery, pedestrian pavements, storm water drains, a sewage treatment plant and labour rest rooms are some of the features of the park. The Erode-based URC Construction Private Ltd., set up by U.R. Chinnusamy, its chairman and managing director, bagged the Rs.81-crore NAP contract and started work in November 2003.

The 15-month deadline given to complete the NAP project was a challenging one, according to technical director of the project C. Devarajan. According to the company's administration director C. Kanakasabapathy, the company had to engage 2,500 workers continuously for 15 months to construct 20 lakh square feet, of reinforced cement concrete structure.

The entire power requirement of NAP units is to be met by the 2 MW captive power plant from Daihatsu, Japan, which will run on furnace oil.The park includes a dining hall and a multipurpose hall, 10,000 sq.ft each. New facilities to be added are an exhibition hall of 20,000 sq.ft, a women's hostel to accommodate 1,000 members, and a workers training centre. The investment by individual companies participating in NAP is said to be around Rs.300 crores, which is expected to generate business worth Rs.1,500 crores annually.

Besides the physical infrastructure, Coimbatore's industrial units enjoy an almost unique support structure in the form of numerous industrial-commercial associations. The most important among these, with wide reach and influence, is the Southern India Mills Association (SIMA), set up in 1933. Apart from training and educating member-mills on modern methods and conducting research on increasing cotton productivity, it supplies quality cottonseeds developed on its own farms and ginned at its own facility. Providing further technical support to the textile industry is the South India Textile Research Association.

The Coimbatore District Small Scale Industries Association (CODISSIA) acts as a catalyst for small entrepreneurs, providing them national and international exposure by organising training programmes, seminars and fairs.

The Southern India Engineering Manufacturers' Association (SIEMA) was set up in 1952 to represent and protect the interests of engineering industries. SIEMA's major achievement is that it created awareness about quality control among its members. The total number of BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards) licensees in and around Coimbatore exceeds 300, the largest in a single region in the country.

Among the other major associations are the Coimbatore Management Association, the Coimbatore Small Foundrymen Association, the Small Industries Testing and Research Centre, the Foundry Owners Association and the Institute of Forest Genetics and Tree Breeding.

The city is also a haven for the retired. LMW's GKD Charity Trust has set up Vrindavan, an old-age home. According to P.A.R. Kumar, its chief executive officer, the home caters to old people who are in need of security.It is not all work for Coimbatoreans, who have the opportunity for their bit of play as well. In addition to a golf club, a water theme park and innumerable getaways to cater to Coimbatore's cosmopolitan population is the Kari Memorial Speedway (in memory of the pioneer of motor sports in India, S. Karivaradhan, who died in an air crash in 1995), promoted by LG Sports Pvt. Ltd. It is India's second "Grade 4 Formula Three" approved race track and a Grade A CIK spec with state-of-the-art facilities. According to B. Vijayakumar, whose dream project this is, it is a 2.1-km race track that is spectator-friendly as almost all of the track can be seen from the viewing gallery.Another indication of an upbeat economy is the growth in the leisure and entertainment industry. In Coimbatore, this is well-borne out by a modern amusement park, Black Thunder (started eight years ago), and leisure club Jennys (set up in 2003). Jennys, with a membership of 900, caters to the rich and the upwardly mobile. According to its executive director Joseph Vincent, Jennys is the first of its kind in Coimbatore and houses the biggest landscaped hotel that can accommodate 1,500 people for open-air banquets. Black Thunder, also under the same group - the LA group - is to be made into an educational park.

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