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India billionaire Adani expands coastal project

NEW DELHI -- India's new right-wing government has cleared the way for billionaire Gautam Adani to further develop a massive coastal Special Economic Zone, a company statement said Wednesday.

All issues “now stand resolved” and development of a 8,481-hectare (20,957-acre) plot in western Gujarat state can proceed, the Adani Group, which has major interests in energy, mining and ports, said in its statement.

Adani plans to build a large salination plant and effluent treatment plant in the Mundra Special Economic Zone (SEZ) on the Gulf of Kutch.

The self-made billionaire has poured billions of dollars into Mundra, transforming it from a remote coastal town into a major industrial hub hosting India's largest commercial port and a massive power plant.

A college dropout who built a fortune developing infrastructure, Adani is seen as close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who took office in May after a landslide election victory.

Critics have claimed the local government in Gujarat, once headed by Modi, provided Adani with heavily discounted land, but the billionaire denies he received any preferential treatment.

Wednesday's announcement pushed shares of Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone (APSEZ) up by nearly seven percent to 281.1 rupees.

“Development is expected to be at a much faster pace” now it has been given the go-ahead, Adani said.

Expansion of the facilities at Mundra had been one of a string of industrial projects stalled under the previous left-leaning Congress government's two-term tenure.

Modi, before taking office as prime minister of the Bharatiya Janata Party government, had vowed to speed up government decision-making to get long-blocked projects moving and jumpstart an economy stuck in a deep slowdown.

India's special economic zones, long pushed by the government as a means of encouraging investment, enjoy exemption from some strict labor laws as well as lower tax rates.

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