The first phase of the $90-billion Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), a collaboration between India and Japan, is expected to begin late this year and be completed in 2018, say officials. The project to build a 150-kilometer corridor on either side of the 1,483-km freight rail line planned between Delhi and Mumbai was to have started in 2008.

The project incorporates nine mega-industrial zones of about 200 to 250 sq. km, a high- speed freight line, three ports, six airports, a six-lane intersection-free expressway and a 4,000-megawatt powerplant. It will develop 24 locations into high-tech residential and industrial hubs, according to Commerce Minister Anand Sharma.

The first phase includes seven cities, each requiring an investment of around $9 billion to $10 billion.The project received a boost from agreements signed by Japan in January to invest $75 million, with India putting in an equivalent amount. The monies will establish a Project Development Fund (PDF) to finance project structuring, including feasibility studies. The projects then will be handed over to specially floated companies for implementation through a mix of public and private fund-raising.

Four memorandums of understanding were signed in late April by Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corp. (DMICDC) and the state governments of Haryana, Gujarat and Maharashtra, with Japanese companies Hitachi, Mitsubishi Corp., Toshiba and Tokyo Electric Power Co.

The industrial corridor provides India with a “unique opportunity to adopt [a] futuristic, smart-city concept of minimal pollution, maximum recycling and reuse of finite resources and optimization of energy supplies,” said DMICDC chief executive officer Amitabh Kant.The eco-cities in India will follow the Japanese model of using all industrial wastes as raw materials for other industries to achieve zero emissions.

The feasibility studies for the first three smart cities will be commissioned through Japanese consultants this year, Kand stated. Based on the report, the Japanese consortiums will start demonstration projects by year’s end.

The U.K.’s Scott Wilson Group plc has been appointed as the overall DMIC region master-plan consultants. London-based Halcrow Group will head the Gujarat Investment Region (IR) and Uttar Pradesh. Los Angeles-based Lea Associates will consult for Madhya Pradesh, India’s Jurong Consultants for Haryana, Los Angeles-based AECOM for Maharashtra and the Dighi Port industrial area, and the Netherlands’ Kuipercompagnons BV for Rajasthan.

The government says funds will be allotted to the states depending on their progress in getting the projects moving. Interest from Maharashtra is apparent. Chief Minister Ashok Chavan has set up a new department under the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corp. to speed up the work. Procedures of land acquisition for the corridor are being accelerated. The Maharashtra government wants to link the largest and busiest container port to the ambitious DMIC project.

“We want Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust ( JNPT), being a major port, to be connected to the proposed DMIC instead of routing it from within the busy financial capital, as it already has several infrastructure projects on hand,” says Principal Secretary for Industry A.M. Khan.

Further, the government is considering a plan to develop four towns—Dhule, Aurangabad, Nashik and Dighi, which fall within a 150-km radius of the proposed corridor—into integrated mega-towns under the DMIC. AECOM will study and identify projects and companies for that purpose.