Sanad reborn as first Nano rolls off the blocks

The first unit of Tata Motors' ultra-cheap 'wonder car' Nano officially rolled off the assembly lines at its new Sanand plant in Gujarat today, opening a new chapter in the history of this once-sleepy little town. The production at the Gujarat plant starts nearly two years after the Tatas were forced to shift the manufacturing plant for their dream car following a land row in West Bengal.

Spread over an area of about 1,100 acres, the new Sanand facility has been created at the cost of about Rs2,000 crore. The plant has a capacity to manufacture 2.5 lakh units annually, which can subsequently be increased to 5 lakh units per annum.

Economic activity in the region has already got a major boost as a result of Tata Motors' plant. Preliminary estimates by the state government suggest the region may attract further investments worth Rs20,000 crore in the near future.

The Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) is planning an auto ancillary park on 350 hectares adjacent to the Nano plant. Besides, a logistics park to handle cargo moving towards Kandla, Mundra and Pipavav ports, a 'Transportnagar' where trucks can park, and a biotechnology park have been proposed.

Already, Hero Honda is looking to drive into Sanand by setting up its fourth unit near the car plant. The Gujarat government is also helping the Textile Machinery Association to set up a new convention and exhibition centre here. Foreign firms like Alexandria Real Estate have shown interest in setting up a research and development biotech unit in the area.

Environmentalists certainly have cause to moan. About 60 km from the state's economic capital Ahmedabad, till recently the few non-residents who came along the dusty road to Sanand, were birdwatchers on their way to the nearby wetlands to try and spot Rosy pelicans, flamingos, White storks, Brahminy ducks and herons at Nalsarovar sanctuary. The locals were mostly tobacco growers; and the chakda - an improvised carriage pulled by a 350cc Enfield motorcycle, ubiquitous in India's small towns – was the main motorised transport seen.