News on Sunday

Smart Cities: A dream cut down to size

In 2015, the Budget announced thirteen mega projects consisting of eight smart cities and five technopoles, with a total investment of Rs 120 billion and requiring 7,000 acres of land. Smart Cities do not occupy a prominent place in the 2017-2018 Budget, except a few measures announced. Has the Smart City fever that gripped the country in 2015 died down?

In 2015, the first budget of the present government announced major ‘Smart Cities’ projects. The then Finance Minister, Vishnu Lutchmeenaraidoo, spoke of thirteen mega projects that were going to transform the Mauritian landscape and the way we work and live. Those projects were set to create thousands of jobs, boost the construction sector and help the country achieve a high income status. In parallel, there was also going to be massive development in the port area, which was to be extended up to Grand River North West and Baie du Tombeau. In the background, the development of Port Louis Smart City at a cost of Rs 52 billion.

Two years later, the hype has dampened with only a few projects in the pipeline. As at date, works have started on at least four projects, namely Mon Trésor Smart City, Jin Fei, Moka Smart City and Médine Smart City. It is estimated that a sum of Rs 2.6 billion will be invested this year.

Moka Smart City

The Moka Smart City at the heart of the island will require total investments of Rs 25 billion over the next 10 years. About 3,500 direct jobs will be created in the various poles of activities. With its ‘citysmarting’ concept, the Moka Smart City aims to integrate all residential zones, leisure parks and commercial activities over a total surface area of 450 acres of land. The project also consists of a new bus station, cycling lanes, electric trams and the extensive use of renewable energy. 

Budget measures for Smart Cities

  • The time-limit imposed on a Mauritian citizen who purchases a serviced plot of land under the Smart City Scheme for completing construction of his residence will be extended from five years to 10 years. The owner of such a serviced plot will be allowed to transfer his property even if construction works have not started, provided the new owner undertakes to abide by the time-limit of 10 years, as from the date of the first acquisition.
  • As part of their social obligation, promoters of Smart City projects will have to make a contribution of Rs 25,000 upon the sale of every residential unit or serviced plot to a Social Fund to be set up as a Special Fund under the Finance and Audit Act. This contribution will be over and above the normal CSR obligations and will be applicable to all Smart City projects, including those already issued with a Letter of Intent or an SCS Certificate. It should be noted that social contribution in respect of Property Development Scheme projects is Rs 200,000 per unit. 
  • With a view to encouraging value added processing/ assembly of furniture by local industries, Smart City projects will benefit from customs duty exemption on imported Knocked–Down furniture, provided a 20 percent local value addition is incorporated therein.

Mon Trésor Smart City

Omnicane, the promoter of Mon Trésor Smart City, has on 14 March 2017 signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Wilco Group from Belgium. The agreement concerns the conception and realization of a multifunctional commercial space at the entrance of the new road leading to Plaisance Airport. Works on Mon Trésor, the first Smart City of Mauritius, have started at the end of 2016, near the airport zone. The first phase, besides Holiday Inn Hotel, includes the Business Gateway as well as Omnicane headquarters. A Freeport zone and dedicated space for light industries will also be set up.

Jin Fei Smart City

Construction works are in good progress on the Jin Fei site at Riche Terre. After much dilly-dallying, the Jin Fei zone is now coming to life with a Smart City. Luxury residences, a university, international conference centres, hotels as well as cultural centres, the first building of the project, the Eden Square, is set to be ready in 2018. Costing nearly Rs 1 billion, this iconic building will transform the Riche Terre landscape, as a prelude of more buildings to come.

The Smart City Scheme

Under the Smart City Scheme (SCS), a project, other than a technopole project, should be developed on land of an extent of at least 21.105 hectares (50 arpents) and include

  • adhere to the live, work and play concept and shall provide for a majority of the residential population to live and work in the same location
  • incorporate within the development a mix of compatible land use including commercial, leisure and residential and consisting of a combination of office, light industrial, hotel, retail, public entertainment and housing so that the inclusive development achieves physical and functional integration and creates a pedestrian oriented urban environment
  • have at least 25 percent of the residential properties sold to citizens of Mauritius or members of the Mauritian Diaspora registered with the Board of Investment under the Mauritian Diaspora Scheme

A smart city project, other than a technopole project, must include:

  • business facilities, with a mandatory innovation cluster
  • residential properties on the condition that the land area planned for the construction of residential properties does not exceed 50 percent of the total land area
  • affordable housing units for middle-income earners
  • civic centres and leisure amenities
  • high-quality public spaces that help promote social interaction and a sense of community, including but not limited to gardens, open plazas, cycle routes and pedestrian precincts
  • day-to-day management services
  • use of information and communication technology to sense, analyse and integrate the key information to provide intelligent urban management and services
  • the use technology products or practices resulting in substantial operational cost savings through reduced energy consumption and utility costs measures which to the extent possible –
  • generate their own energy requirements through eco-friendly mechanisms such as solar plants and wind farms
  • produce their own water needs; and
  • are autonomous in their waste management systems.
  • Social programmes 

Medine Smart City

Medine Property, of the Medine sugar estate group, has already obtained its Letter of Intent from the Board of Investment to develop its Smart City in the west of the country. This vast project will be realised on an extent of 800 acres and will be conducted in phases over three decdes. It consists of an educational component, with the construction of an international campus. The total cost of the Smart City project is estimated at Rs 35 billion. Existing facilities such as Cascavelle Shopping Village, Clarens Field Business Park, West Coast International Primary School and Student Life Residences will be incorporated in the project. Sports and leisure are also a prominent feature of the project, with an Olympic swimming pool and a cultural centre on the agenda. 

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