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  • 'India's smart cities' plan can adversely impact environment'

    22.07.2017 | The Indian government's vision to create 100 new smart cities to support the rapidly growing urban population could have a significant detrimental impact on the environment, a study has warned.Researchers led by Hugh Byrd, professor and a specialist in urban planning at the University of Lincoln, UK, said the detrimental environmental impact would increase at a greater rate than the population.They asked for greater emphasis to be placed on providing new supporting infrastructure and utilities, if the harmful impact was to be reduced.The study is based on an analysis of the environmental implications of the planned developments in Bhendi Bazaar -- a 16.5-acre site in Mumbai -- put forward as a flagship of the proposed new "smart" cities.According to the proposal, Bhendi Bazaar would see medium-rise housing (between three and five storeys) replaced with high-rise towers of 40 to 60 storeys, which the government had said is "sustainable, environmentally friendly and 'smart'".However, the research suggests that the resulting increase in population density was likely to place significant extra demands on resources, including electricity and water."The pursuit of cities to become "smart", "world-class", "liveable", "green" or "eco" has been promoted alongside increased population densities and urban compaction," the researcher said. "This planning goal (will) reach a point where resources are inadequate for the fully functioning metabolism of a city," said Byrd. Simultaneously, it will also increase the output of waste in the form of drainage, solid waste and greenhouse gases, the research paper, published in the Journal of Contemporary Urban Affairs, contended."In this case, the metabolism does not increase linearly with density but accelerates instead, so the detrimental environmental impact will increase at a greater rate than the population increase," Byrd said.The Bhendi Bazaar case study offers an example in terms of increased density, improved image and urban regeneration.However, it does not offer an answer to the problems of providing an adequate infrastructure to support the metabolism of such developments if they were to be significantly replicated, the study said."On this basis the exemplar development does not support the case for calling the proposals for Mumbai "smart" or "sustainable"," Byrd noted.

  • Getting loans tough without lenders' protection under RERA

    30.04.2017 | Developers on Sunday expressed apprehensions that they may face difficulties to obtain credit for projects unless lenders' interest is protected under the Real Estate Regulation and Development Act (RERA), 2016, which will come into full effect from Monday.According to the act, a separate account will be used to deposit 70 per cent of the money collected for the project's construction and developers can draw from it only for construction purposes."Lenders always look for security before lending. There will be no problem if projects, registered in the regulatory authority, come out well. But there may be cases in which projects being funded by lenders somehow do not take off. In these cases, buyers will get refund from the separate account but lenders' advances turn bad," Emami Infrastructure's whole-time Director and CFO Girja Choudhary explained."In view of such situations, lenders are looking some sort of security mechanism. Unless lenders' interest is protected, it would be difficult for developers to obtain loans for the projects," Choudhary said.The Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India (CREDAI) Bengal's President Nandu Belani elaborated lenders who funded projects usually ask for a certain percentage of receivables from every unit sold as repayment of loan. "It should be clarified by the regulator that repayments to the lenders should be met from the separate/escrow account," he said. The consulting firm Knight Frank's Chief Economist Samantak Das however said the act is meant for ensuring a level playing field for buyers so that they can take an informed decision while buying homes based on the available data and at the same time buyers' interest can be protected."It is the fact that lenders who fund developers for real estate projects have sought for their protection under the regulatory framework. The scope of RERA is limited to buyers and sellers only. Unfortunately, lenders to the developers are not within the purview of RERA," he told .He said lenders provide funds to the developers for a particular project after a due diligence. A different mechanism can be evolved for the protection of lenders.

  • Fiorentina deny agreeing Bernardeschi sale to Inter Milan

    12.03.2017 |  ACF Fiorentina have rubbished a media report that the Serie A football club has agreed to sell young playmaker Federico Bernardeschi to Inter Milan in the summer.A report by Il Messaggero editor Massimo Caputi on Saturday claimed that "the deal will go through" and Inter will pay Fiorentina around 40 million euro (about $42 million) to rope in 23-year-old Bernardeschi, an academy product of the Florence-based Serie A outfit."Such reports are utterly groundless and far removed from reality. Bernardeschi has always declared and demonstrated his loyalty to the Viola cause and the club has stressed its intention to keep the player in Florence," Fiorentina said in a statement.The Italian international has attracted interest from several top European clubs after scoring 10 times this Serie A campaign. He also played well at the Europa League.Bernardeschi has made seven appearances for the Italian national team, making his debut against Spain in March 2016.Apart from Juventus, several English clubs, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United reportedly want to hire Bernadeschi's service.

  • Rs 4,500 cr 'irregular' tax benefits given to infra firms: CAG

    22.11.2016 | India's official auditor said on Tuesday that the Income Tax department has given irregular tax benefits to infrastructure companies without verification, leading to a revenue loss of over Rs 4,500 crore.The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in a report tabled in Parliament said the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) did not have any established mechanism to assess the impact of revenue foregone on account of deductions under Section 80 IA on the economy and industrial growth of the country."There is no existing system to ascertain from the sponsoring ministries as to whether the tax holidays have had the desired impact on the growth of the economy," the CAG said in its performance audit of the CBDT.In the absence of such a mechanism, the CBDT had failed to ascertain whether the very purpose of tax holidays has been achieved, it added. The Income Tax department has "irregularly" allowed deductions to various companies engaged in infrastructure business which have tax effect of Rs 4,524 crore, the report said.This included Rs 1,766.74 crore of tax benefit availed by Reliance Ports & Terminals for building captive jetties at Port Sikka in Bihar. Other companies that availed of such benefits include JSW Energy (Rs 340 crore), Reliance Infrastructure (Rs 51.88 crore), Tata Power (Rs 36.99 crore) and Gujarat Fluro Chemicals (Rs 22.75 crore).The auditor recommended that CBDT may evolve a mechanism for proper linkage between tax benefits allowed by the department with the actual investment made by the assessee in order to assess the impact of a tax holiday.

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  • 'India's smart cities' plan can adversely impact environment'
    'India's smart cities' plan can adversely impact environment'

    22.07.2017 |The Indian government's vision to create 100 new smart cities to support the rapidly growing urban population could have a significant detrimental impact on the environment, a study has warned.Researchers led by Hugh Byrd, professor and a specialist in urban planning at the University of Lincoln, UK, said the detrimental environmental impact would increase at a greater rate than the population.They asked for greater emphasis to be placed on providing new supporting infrastructure and utilities, if the harmful impact was to be reduced.The study is based on an analysis of the environmental implications of the planned developments in Bhendi Bazaar -- a 16.5-acre site in Mumbai -- put forward as a flagship of the proposed new "smart" cities.According to the proposal, Bhendi Bazaar would see medium-rise housing (between three and five storeys) replaced with high-rise towers of 40 to 60 storeys, which the government had said is "sustainable, environmentally friendly and 'smart'".However, the research suggests that the resulting increase in population density was likely to place significant extra demands on resources, including electricity and water."The pursuit of cities to become "smart", "world-class", "liveable", "green" or "eco" has been promoted alongside increased population densities and urban compaction," the researcher said. "This planning goal (will) reach a point where resources are inadequate for the fully functioning metabolism of a city," said Byrd. Simultaneously, it will also increase the output of waste in the form of drainage, solid waste and greenhouse gases, the research paper, published in the Journal of Contemporary Urban Affairs, contended."In this case, the metabolism does not increase linearly with density but accelerates instead, so the detrimental environmental impact will increase at a greater rate than the population increase," Byrd said.The Bhendi Bazaar case study offers an example in terms of increased density, improved image and urban regeneration.However, it does not offer an answer to the problems of providing an adequate infrastructure to support the metabolism of such developments if they were to be significantly replicated, the study said."On this basis the exemplar development does not support the case for calling the proposals for Mumbai "smart" or "sustainable"," Byrd noted.

  • Getting loans tough without lenders' protection under RERA
    Getting loans tough without lenders' protection under RERA

    30.04.2017 |Developers on Sunday expressed apprehensions that they may face difficulties to obtain credit for projects unless lenders' interest is protected under the Real Estate Regulation and Development Act (RERA), 2016, which will come into full effect from Monday.According to the act, a separate account will be used to deposit 70 per cent of the money collected for the project's construction and developers can draw from it only for construction purposes."Lenders always look for security before lending. There will be no problem if projects, registered in the regulatory authority, come out well. But there may be cases in which projects being funded by lenders somehow do not take off. In these cases, buyers will get refund from the separate account but lenders' advances turn bad," Emami Infrastructure's whole-time Director and CFO Girja Choudhary explained."In view of such situations, lenders are looking some sort of security mechanism. Unless lenders' interest is protected, it would be difficult for developers to obtain loans for the projects," Choudhary said.The Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India (CREDAI) Bengal's President Nandu Belani elaborated lenders who funded projects usually ask for a certain percentage of receivables from every unit sold as repayment of loan. "It should be clarified by the regulator that repayments to the lenders should be met from the separate/escrow account," he said. The consulting firm Knight Frank's Chief Economist Samantak Das however said the act is meant for ensuring a level playing field for buyers so that they can take an informed decision while buying homes based on the available data and at the same time buyers' interest can be protected."It is the fact that lenders who fund developers for real estate projects have sought for their protection under the regulatory framework. The scope of RERA is limited to buyers and sellers only. Unfortunately, lenders to the developers are not within the purview of RERA," he told .He said lenders provide funds to the developers for a particular project after a due diligence. A different mechanism can be evolved for the protection of lenders.

  • Fiorentina deny agreeing Bernardeschi sale to Inter Milan
    Fiorentina deny agreeing Bernardeschi sale to Inter Milan

    12.03.2017 | ACF Fiorentina have rubbished a media report that the Serie A football club has agreed to sell young playmaker Federico Bernardeschi to Inter Milan in the summer.A report by Il Messaggero editor Massimo Caputi on Saturday claimed that "the deal will go through" and Inter will pay Fiorentina around 40 million euro (about $42 million) to rope in 23-year-old Bernardeschi, an academy product of the Florence-based Serie A outfit."Such reports are utterly groundless and far removed from reality. Bernardeschi has always declared and demonstrated his loyalty to the Viola cause and the club has stressed its intention to keep the player in Florence," Fiorentina said in a statement.The Italian international has attracted interest from several top European clubs after scoring 10 times this Serie A campaign. He also played well at the Europa League.Bernardeschi has made seven appearances for the Italian national team, making his debut against Spain in March 2016.Apart from Juventus, several English clubs, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United reportedly want to hire Bernadeschi's service.

  • Rs 4,500 cr 'irregular' tax benefits given to infra firms: CAG
    Rs 4,500 cr 'irregular' tax benefits given to infra firms: CAG

    22.11.2016 |India's official auditor said on Tuesday that the Income Tax department has given irregular tax benefits to infrastructure companies without verification, leading to a revenue loss of over Rs 4,500 crore.The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in a report tabled in Parliament said the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) did not have any established mechanism to assess the impact of revenue foregone on account of deductions under Section 80 IA on the economy and industrial growth of the country."There is no existing system to ascertain from the sponsoring ministries as to whether the tax holidays have had the desired impact on the growth of the economy," the CAG said in its performance audit of the CBDT.In the absence of such a mechanism, the CBDT had failed to ascertain whether the very purpose of tax holidays has been achieved, it added. The Income Tax department has "irregularly" allowed deductions to various companies engaged in infrastructure business which have tax effect of Rs 4,524 crore, the report said.This included Rs 1,766.74 crore of tax benefit availed by Reliance Ports & Terminals for building captive jetties at Port Sikka in Bihar. Other companies that availed of such benefits include JSW Energy (Rs 340 crore), Reliance Infrastructure (Rs 51.88 crore), Tata Power (Rs 36.99 crore) and Gujarat Fluro Chemicals (Rs 22.75 crore).The auditor recommended that CBDT may evolve a mechanism for proper linkage between tax benefits allowed by the department with the actual investment made by the assessee in order to assess the impact of a tax holiday.

  • Swedish firms can boost India's digital transformation: Minister
    Swedish firms can boost India's digital transformation: Minister

    09.11.2016 |From building Smart Cities to tackling air pollution, Swedish companies can offer state-of-the-art, innovative solutions to the Indian government and help Prime Minister Narendra Modi realise the dream of digital transformation, a Swedish minister has said.According to Minister for Enterprise and Innovation Mikael Damberg, the enterprises that have transformed Swedish cities -- be it in the field of transportation or energy sustainability -- can very well emulate the same models here for the Indian cities."When it comes to Smart Cities, Swedish companies have expertise, knowledge and have done a lot of real-time work in this area. I think this is a perfect match going forward between Sweden and India," Damberg told  on Wednesday on the sidelines of the India-Sweden Business Leaders Roundtable here. "We have the unique knowledge when it comes to telecom. This is totally necessary if you want to build Smart Cities as connectivity is at the heart of this. We have big players like Ericsson which is now pushing for the revolutionary 5G technology," Damberg added.From waste management to providing solar energy solutions, Swedish firms have the technical know-how to provide efficient solutions at competitive costs."If you want to use solar energy, you need to build smart electricity grids to use renewable energy. Sweden has the best renewable energy use cases. We know how to build smart energy systems that use energy at all hours of the day and night for the industry needs," the minister pointed out. If India wants to transform its economy, it needs to be more innovative and competitive in the world market. "Sweden is number three on the innovation front in the world. We have a vibrant digital start-up scene that can help India grow digitally. So if the Indian firms want to try out new solutions, they should come to Sweden. I have called for Sweden to become a 'testbed' for new solutions," the minister added.

  • Haryana to illuminate government, heritage buildings
    Haryana to illuminate government, heritage buildings

    22.10.2016 |The Haryana government has decided to illuminate all government and heritage buildings in the state from sunset to sunrise for two weeks from October 24 to November 7.This will be done in view of the Swarna Jayanti (golden jubilee) celebrations of the state.The buildings to be illuminated include government offices, buildings of government institutions, of universities and colleges and tourism complexes, and resorts across Haryana.Haryana, which was formed as a separate state carved from Punjab on November 1, 1966, completes 50 years of its existence. The state will launch year-long celebrations to mark its golden jubilee. The celebrations will be launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Gurugram (earlier Gurgaon) on November 1."Instructions have also been issued to take adequate safety measures to ensure that no untoward incident occurs due to illuminations," a state government spokesperson said here.

  • Property worth crores unearthed in raids against MP officer
    Property worth crores unearthed in raids against MP officer

    19.10.2016 |Madhya Pradesh Lokayukta Police on Wednesday unearthed property worth crores of rupees in raids conducted at two locations here of a senior officer of the Electricity Department.The raids against Satyendra Singh Chauhan were continuing when reports last came in.Lokayukta Superintendent of Police Amit Singh told : "We had received complaints of Chauhan owning property disproportionate to his known sources of income.""Based on the information, two teams of Lokayukta Police conducted raids today (Wednesday) at his Bhagwan Colony residence and at a water plant located in Dwarkadheesh Colony," he said.According to Singh, documents pertaining to residential plots in Anupam Nagar and agricultural lands at several places have been found so far in the raids at the three-storey palatial building in Bhagwan Colony and the water plant in Dwarkadheesh Colony.Besides, two four-wheelers, three goods-carrying vehicles and passbooks of several bank accounts have also been recovered.The Lokayukta SP said the value of the movable and immovable properties traced from various locations and belonging to Chauhan run into crores of rupees.Chauhan is currently posted as Deputy General Manager (Vigilance) in Morena district.

  • Digital payments push can add 6% to India's GDP: McKinsey
    Digital payments push can add 6% to India's GDP: McKinsey

    05.10.2016 |Widespread adoption and use of digital finance by emerging economies, including India, can fire their growth by an additional 6 per cent or $3.7 trillion which could create up to 95 million additional jobs across all sectors by 2025, a McKinsey study has said."Overall, we calculate that widespread use of digital finance could boost annual GDP of all emerging economies by $3.7 trillion by 2025, a 6 per cent increase versus a business-as-usual scenario," McKinsey said in its report 'Digital Finance For All'.Detailed inputs from field research in seven emerging economies that cover a range of geographies and income levels -- Brazil, China, Ethiopia, India, Mexico, Nigeria, and Pakistan -- was carried out, the report said."Nearly two-thirds of the increase would come from raised productivity of financial and non-financial businesses and governments as a result of digital payments. One-third would be from the additional investment that broader financial inclusion of people and micro, small, and medium-sized businesses would bring," it said."The small remainder would come from time savings by individuals enabling more hours of work."With the increased use of digital payments, governments could gain $110 billion per year from reduced leakage in public spending and tax collection -- money that could be devoted to other priorities. The resulting increase in aggregate demand could create nearly 95 million new jobs across all sectors, it added.The latest Mckinsey report noted that emerging economies have negligible penetration of digital payments -- less than 1 per cent of total transactions.As the cost of microchip and biometric technology declines, developing countries are increasingly able to implement digital ID programmes, the report noted.India's Aadhaar biometric ID programme is one instance of success. Just over $1 billion has been spent since 2010, and more than one billion people, including nearly the entire adult population, have been signed up by 2016.In the two years from its launch in August 2014, the Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) has generated more than 220 million new accounts and over $6 billion in deposits. The Reserve Bank of India is now working with non-bank financial entities to launch "payments banks", entities that will sell simple payment and savings products without a full banking license. Using digital channels rather than brick-and-mortar branches dramatically reduces costs for providers and increases convenience for users, opening access to finance for people at all income levels and in far-flung rural areas. "The potential impact on GDP for each country depends on its starting point. Lower-income countries such as Ethiopia, India, and Nigeria have the largest potential, given their low levels of financial inclusion and digital payments today," it said.Pakistan currently has a less developed financial system requiring greater upfront investment, and thus would not have as large an increase in productivity as some of its lower-income peers, the report said.Middle-income countries such as China has the lowest additional GDP potential of our seven countries because its debt levels are relatively high today and it has less room to grow credit further in a sustainable manner, it added.

  • Adarsh scam: HC orders deep probe into 'benami' flats
    Adarsh scam: HC orders deep probe into 'benami' flats

    05.10.2016 |Expressing dissatisfaction with a Central Bureau of Investigation report on its probe into 'benami' flats in the controversial Adarsh Society, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday directed the agency to probe it further.After going through the CBI report, a division bench comprising Justice A.S. Oka and Justice A.A. Sayed said it was "not satisfied" and asked the agency to probe the matter further and file its report by December 16.Earlier on September 2, when CBI submitted its report, the court refused to accept it saying that the agency had not applied its mind with respect to several issues raised in a public interest litigation against the society.Activist Pravin Wategaonkar, who had filed the PIL, alleged that senior bureaucrats and politic owned 'benami' flats in the Adarsh Soceity as a 'quid pro quo' for clearing files of the society in violation of norms.He had even demanded that the Maharashtra government reveal the names of two top officials who had dealt with the Adarsh Society files at the relevant period and allegedly were allotted 'benami' flats.Wategaonkar pointed out that during the initial stages of the probe, the CBI had arrested one of the promoters of the society in 2011, Kanhaiyalal Gidwani, and sought his custody as he held 'benami' flats for two politic.Gidwani and his family owned a total of 10 flats in the society and the sources of funding or their real ownership was still unclear, the PIL said.One of the prime accused in the scam, Gidwani died of a heart attack in November 2012.In his PIL, Wategaonkar said the CBI has not named the two politic owning two each of these 'benami' flats either in the chargesheet or anywhere else during the probe.He sought the court's direction to the CBI to either produce any documents or police reports, or carry out an independent probe on these missing names.The court had directed the CBI to probe the matter of 'benami' flats further and submit a fresh report on this particular aspect by December 16.The Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society scam was first unearthed in November 2010 and involved grabbing of flats cheap in the upmarket Colaba area which were meant to house Kargil war heroes and war widows.Originally intended to be a six-storied building, it was subsequently converted into a 100-metres tall, 31-storied structure with politic, bureaucrats and army officers who allegedly conspired among themselves to get the cheap flats.Last April, the Bombay High Court had ordered the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests to demolish the building - which is unoccupied since the scam broke out - and initiate criminal proceedings against the accused.Later in July, the Supreme Court stayed the BHC order and directed the Centre to take possession of the building.

  • No big impact of Brexit on PE flows into Indian realty: JLL
    No big impact of Brexit on PE flows into Indian realty: JLL

    04.07.2016 | Britain's decision to leave the European Union will not have much impact on private equity (PE) investments in Indian property market, said Anuj Puri, Chairman and Country Head of real estate services firm JLL, on Monday."Out of total overseas PE investments into Indian realty, UK accounts for just $500 million (about two per cent) while the whole of Europe (including UK) accounts for $1.9 billion (about eight per cent). Europe-based funds have only a small influence on FDI in realty," said Puri."Brexit will not make big impact on PE flows into Indian realty. It is possible that money from UK and from rest of Europe gets invested in Indian realty as FDI (Foreign Direct investment) through PE funds headquartered in the US and Asia Pacific; both categories have invested heavily in Indian realty," he said.According to experts, the Brexit decision could bring short-term opportunities for international investors, although market sentiment will remain cautious. In the Asia Pacific, local occupiers of property and multinational companies serving domestic economies will help to insulate the region from volatility.After Brexit, the markets are volatile and the value of the pound has declined sharply. With considerable uncertainly and no real precedent, Asia Pacific real estate investors and corporate occupiers are looking to mitigate risk."The repercussions are being felt around the globe and we are likely to see a temporary slowdown in demand from Asian occupiers with operations in the UK. However, in the long term, once clarity emerges about the UK's exit negotiations, we expect a resumption in confidence," said JLL's Asia Pacific CEO Anthony Couse.For property markets, there would be a correction but that should be followed by an upturn as opportunities re-emerge in core markets and the benefits of a weaker sterling are recognised, he said.As the political and economic situation in the UK continues to unfold, most Asia Pacific investors and occupiers will take time to digest the implications before taking medium to long-term decisions, he said.According to Alistair Meadows, head of JLL's International Capital Group, Asia Pacific, there remains a substantial weight of capital ready to be deployed from Asia into international investments. The short-term effect of Brexit is likely to be that this Asian capital will potentially seek opportunities closer to home, in markets that are comparable in transparency to London, such as Sydney.However, for long-term institutional Asian investors, London will most likely continue in its position as one of the world's foremost investment destinations, Meadows said.

  • 'Full House' home up for sale
    'Full House' home up for sale

    28.05.2016 | The home that served as the exterior of the Tanner residence on the popular 1980s American sitcom "Full House" is on sale for $4.15 million.The house is listed for sale on real estate "The interior of this magnificent property is sophisticated, comfortable, and timeless with a spacious floor plan, soaring ceilings, 3 bedrooms, office and 3 1/2 baths," according to the listing on the website. Located at 1709 Broderick Street in lower Pacific Heights here, the 3,125 sq ft abode no longer features the familiar off-white facade or red door -- the house now has a purple colour scheme, reports ew.com. The interior doesn't match the one on the show either, as "Full House" was filmed on a soundstage. Instead, incoming residents will have to make do with "a spacious floor plan", "soaring ceilings" and a "classically designed garden". The show, created by Jeff Franklin for ABC, aired from September 22, 1987, to May 23, 1995, broadcasting eight seasons and 192 episodes.

  • HC orders demolition of Mumbai's Adarsh building
    HC orders demolition of Mumbai's Adarsh building

    29.04.2016 | Upholding a 2011 order of the Ministry of Environment, the Bombay High Court on Friday ordered the Centre to demolish the controversial 31-storeyed Adarsh Housing Society building in south Mumbai."The court has upheld the order of the ministry of January 16, 2011, to demolish the building within three months, but it was challenged by the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society," said Y.P. Singh, one of the lawyers involved in the case.The high court has also ordered an inquiry against the politic, ministers and officials involved in the scam and allowed the Maharashtra government three months to appeal against it in the Supreme Court.

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