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THE government has decided against applying an area limit of 5,000 hectares for special economic zones (SEZs) if two or more such zones are merged, clearing the way for big SEZs in the country.

Amending the SEZ rules, the government has also allowed developers more freedom to select a location by defining 'vacant land' where a special zone can be set up as land where there are no functional ports, manufacturing units, industrial activities or structures in which any commercial or economic activity is in progress. As per the SEZ (second amendment) rules published in the Gazette of India, the Centre may consider on merit the clubbing of contiguous (adjoining) existing notified SEZs even if the total area of the resultant zones exceeds 5,000 hectares. This is in line with the permission given by the empowered group of ministers (eGoM) on SEZs in the earlier UPA regime to Adani Group's Mundra SEZ in February this year to merge its three SEZs into a single 6,100-hectare entity. "The amended rules make room for more such mergers to happen," said Hitender Mehta, an expert in the Assocham committee on SEZs, welcoming the move. Developers can now set up two or more zones side by side, respecting the individual caps, and later merge them into a much larger special zone.

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