New Delhi: Government is planning to develop two 'smart' cities with a host of modern features like intelligent transport and carbon neutral status in each of the states in the second phase of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal mission.
"We have an urban renewal mission which means that the central government funds the cities and one of our programmes is that we propose to have two smart cities in every state," Urban Development minister Kamal Nath told reporters here today.
The minister said medium sized cities with half a million to one million population will be developed as smart cities and expertise of Austrian Institute of Technology had been sought for the purpose.
Nath was speaking after meeting a delegation led by Austrian minister of Transport, Innovation and Technology Doris Bures here.
"Now how do we define these smart cities, what will it cover....right from broadband, intelligent transport to carbon neutral (features), these are so many components...that is what we propose to collaborate with the Austrian Institute of Technology," he said.
"We want to seek assistance from the Institute on what kind of model smart cities we should look at," he added.
Nath also said that medium sized cities like Ujjain or Jabalpur would be considered for the proposal to create smart cities.
"We cannot take on very large cities for smart cities at this stage, we must recognise that. We have to take our medium sized ones, so we want to look at cities with half a million population to one million population instead of trying to take on cities with ten million population," he said.
"We have discussed the possibility of collaboration between the Austrian Institute of Technology and the National Institute of Urban Affairs which comes under the ministry of Urban Development," Nath said.
"We want to get technologies towards rapid urbanisation which we are going through, which includes smart cities, urban transportation facilities and their integration," Nath said.
Austrian minister Doris Bures expressed hope for a greater cooperation between the two countries.
Nath was questioned by reporters about reports that a team of officials was being sent to Chile to understand the defects in the airport metro.
"It is not final yet, but there is an idea that it should be seen that if should study such a thing which had happened there. The report in this regard is not ready yet," Nath said.
India to launch housing project for Lankan Tamils on Oct 2
New Delhi: India is set to provide financial assistance and technical expertise to the most vulnerable section among the Sri Lankan Tamils so that they can build their own houses. The project is expected to be launched on October 2. This is part of New Delhi’s commitment to build 50,000 houses in Sri Lanka for the ethnic minorities. The vulnerable section is expected to include women, elderly, those suffering from illness, and the economically weaker section.
Broad contours of the project was discussed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa when they met here recently for the first detailed discussions after over two years. They also reviewed bilateral relations and conditions of Tamils, following the UN Human Rights Council resolution in April.
The Indian High Commission in Colombo, in consultation with the Lankan government, is monitoring the project that will benefit internally displaced persons and Indian-origin Tamils. For the IDPs, 1,000 houses each in northern and eastern province will be constructed on land owned by the beneficiary. For Indian-origin Tamils, 4,000 houses will be constructed in various tea estates in the central and Uva provinces.
Recession in realty sector takes toll on revenue
Licence fee collection down to Rs 644 cr in 2011-12 from Rs 2,286 cr in 2007-08 Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, October 2
Recession in the real estate sector has taken its toll on the government revenue. In a development that may ring alarm bells for the cash-starved Bhupinder Singh Hooda govermment, the revenue collections from the licence fee from the builders has dropped from a peak of Rs 2,286 crore in 2007-08 to a meagre Rs 644 in the last financial year (2011-12).
What is more worrying is the fact that the annual revenue from the licence fee for the last financial year, which is a major source of funding government’s developmental projects, is even less than the collections of Rs 696 crore for the 2010-11 financial year. “The ever-decreasing revenue from the licence fee is certainly a worrying sign and would have an adverse impact on the ongoing and proposed development projects,” a senior government functionary told The Tribune here today.
Blaming it on the ongoing recession in the housing sector, reality expert BK Sanghi explained that financial years 2006-07 (licence fee Rs 1,850 crore) and 2007-08 (licence fee Rs 2,286 crore) were the boom years for the real estate sector in the Haryana, particularly the National Capital Region (NCR).
“Scores of builders, who were granted licences by the Haryana government in these years, could not complete the construction of the dwelling units and offer their possession to the investors and end-users on time due to the recession setting in in the real estate markets,” he said, explaining the rational behind the declining revenue from the licence fee in subsequent years.
Meanwhile, a look at the figures indicates that the Haryana government earned Rs 7,055 crore from the licence fee from the builders since 2004-05. In 2004-05, the government got Rs 207 crore from the licence fee which jumped to Rs 420 crore the next year. While the following two years were the best for revenue collections -- Rs 1,850 crore (2006-07) and Rs 2,287crore (2007-08), the figure for the following year was pegged at a respectable Rs 673 crore. In 2009-10, the collection came down to Rs 270 crore.
Alarm bells for Hooda govt The reality bubble seems to be bursting in Haryana, giving sleepless nights to the reality firms and the cash-strapped Hooda government. Not only have the licence fee collections come down from Rs 2,286 crore in 2007-08 to Rs 644 in the last financial year, the number of licences granted to the colonisers has also registered a sharp decline. In 2007-08, the number of licences to develop colonies was pegged at around 153 which came down to about 122 in 2011-12. The declining revenue from the licence fee also indicated that there were fewer number of mega-projects in the Haryana now as compared to a few years back.
Builders like Supertech turn to technology to offset sharp rise in costs
Builders across the country are increasingly turning to technology to offset the sharp rise in the cost of construction amid a slowdown in sales. Some real estate developers are investing in plants to manufacture pre-fabricated walls and ceilings while others are bringing in methods that not only double the pace of construction but also reduce the requirement of precious steel.
The innovations come at a time when most developers have suffered a sharp slide in margins over the past few quarters. Developers are finding different ways to reduce cost, says Sanjay Dutt, executive managing director, south Asia at property advisory firm Cushman & Wakefield.
The cost of inputs such as cement and steel has risen by 35-40 % over the past two years and labour rates have more than doubled. "Margins are down by 50% for us because of higher commodity prices and slower home sales," says RK Arora, managing director of Noida-based builder Supertech , which has invested Rs 200 crore to set up a plant in neighbouring Greater Noida to produce standardised pre-fabricated walls and slabs. "Pre-fabrication is done in a controlled environment, so quality and finishing are better," says Harleen Oberoi, executive director , project and construction management at construction services firm AECOM.
"It also reduces the need for labour considerably ." Pre-fabrication allows developers to save 15-20 % of construction cost and as much as 40% of the time. "If we can manage to finish on time, we will be able to maintain our margins," says Shaishav Dharia, head of strategy at the Mumbai-based Lodha Group. The company is focusing on setting up a more reliable supply chain that would minimise delays.
In its township project in the Mumbai suburb of Dombivali, the company has started using lightweight blocks, which are 15-20 % lighter and reduce the use of steel and cement by 10-20 %. "This is a straight 2-4 % addition to our margins ," says Dharia. Lightweight blocks require 5 kg steel per sq ft compared with 6 kg in the case of regular bricks, a saving of about Rs 50 per sq ft coupled with the reduction in the requirement and costs of labour for installation. Moreover, the supply of regular bricks is not reliable , especially in Maharashtra. Rising labour costs account for 35-40 % of a project today, as daily wages for an unskilled labourer have gone up to Rs 200 from about Rs 100 two years ago and Rs 500 for a skilled labourer, up from Rs 250.
Lodha and Supertech are building high-rises in Mumbai and Noida, where conventional building techniques would result in time and cost overruns. To speed up construction, the two builders have invested in new shuttering technology that helps them complete a slab in a building in seveneight days, compared with almost a month required in the conventional method. Shuttering is the mould used to set concrete in a building and this new variety is lighter and can be moved automatically from one floor to another , requiring 70% less labour.
"The cost of procuring the technology might be high initially, but it pays back by way of huge savings ," says Arora. Bangalore-based Puravankara Projects is using foam-based concrete for making its internal walls, which brings in efficiency and requires less labour to be done, says the company's chief operating officer, Jack Bastian Nazareth.
"Value engineering at the beginning of a project increases the speed of construction ," says Nazareth, adding that the company has been able to save up to Rs 120 per sq ft using this technology, which yields a better finish, reduces the need for plastering and can be finished with just one coat of paint.
Pre-fabrication allows developers to save 15-20 % of construction cost and as much as 40% of the time Lightweight blocks require 5 kg steel per sq ft compared with 6 kg in the case of regular bricks. This saves of about . 50 per sq ft coupled with the reduction in the requirement and costs of labour New shuttering technology helps builders complete a slab in 7-8 days, compared with almost a month required in the conventional method.
Allahabad: Projects of at least 6 builders in Noida hit, petition says land wasn’t formally acquired from farmers.
The Allahabad High Court on Wednesday stayed construction of multi-storey residential projects of nearly half a dozen private developers in Sector 75 and Sector 120 of Noida.
The court took the decision while hearing of a petition, which alleged that the Noida Authority allotted land to private builders without formally acquiring the plots from farmers.
A division bench of Acting Chief Justice Amitava Lala and Justice P K S Baghel gave two weeks to the respondents to file their replies. The matter will come up for hearing after three weeks.
The bench said the allegations in the petition raised the question whether any public authority has the power to allot land to a third party without acquiring it from the land owner.
The petition filed by Kalu, a farmer of Sarsabad village, through counsels Shiv Kant Tripathi and Amrita Rai, said a notification under Section 4 (indicating the intention of the Authority concerned to acquire land) of the Land Acquisition Act for 120 hectares in Sector 75 and Sector 120 was issued on April 7 last year.
The land concerned falls within Sarsabad village.
Nearly 600,000 square metres of land, which is roughly half the total area for which the notification was issued, was allotted to builders between 2010 and 2012 without completing the acquisition process, the petition alleged.
“Our contention is that 17 months after the notice under Section 4 was issued, the acquisition process has not moved forward. In accordance with the norms, the notice under Section 6 (pertaining to finalising the plots to be acquired) of the Act should have been issued within a year. Our objection is that land could not be allotted to private builders before it was acquired from farmers,” Mishra said.
He said all private developers involved have started construction on the allotted land.
The petition demanded quashing of the notice issued under Section 4 and cancelling of the lease deeds awarded to the private developers.
Realty project in Dubai to have big replica of Taj Mahal
Dubai: A replica of Taj Mahal, Taj Arabia, several times bigger than India's architectural marvel, will be a part the Falconcity of Wonders (FCW) – a multi-purpose project being developed here.
Taj Arabia will be surrounded by lush green innovated landscaping including the famous Mughal Gardens and architecturally themed landmark buildings, the company said during Cityscape Global 2012 event here.
The project comprises various residential and commercial buildings including a mega retail hub including jewellery souk and wedding boutiques.
Link Global Group will develop this new landmark at Falconcity of Wonders that is described as 'The World in a City' project.
It will include several historical and modern icons of architecture from around the world such as Pyramids, Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal, Great Wall of China, and Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Salem Al Moosa, Chairman and CEO of Falconcity, said: "Land of India will represent a key attraction in Falconcity as it includes high-end hospitality and commercial facilities that are set to host some of the major events in town and we are honoured that Link Global Group will contribute to the success story of this project."
'Taj Arabia' will be a role model and a leading example of how developments flourish and excel in Dubai real estate market, Salem Al Moose said, adding that the Land of India participation in Cityscape Global 2012 will echo very far as the market is longing for such creativity, determination and Innovation.
Arun Mehra, Chairman of Link Global Group, said: "The new project, that we expect to see completed by end of 2014, is themed as the 'New City of Love' as it is built around the Taj Mahal which is a symbol of love and will include various facilities to encapsulate the beauty of life, love and romance mixed with the long-established Mughal architecture."
The company said Taj Arabia will be the new wedding destination and for couples to come yearly and renew their sacred vows and goldsmiths will be available for visitors to be able to offer gifts.
Some of Bollywood producers have also shown interest in shooting movies in 'Land of India and the Taj Arabia', it added.
Blackstone gets CCI approval for Embassy realty deal
NEW DELHI: The Competition Commission of India (CCI) today approved a real estate deal between global private equity giant Blackstone group and Pune-based realty firm Embassy Group.
The proposed deal involves Blackstone and Embassy group having joint control over an entity engaged in the business of development and management of commercial and office space and related activities.
In an order released today, CCI said the deal is unlikely to have any "appreciable adverse impact on competition in India and therefore the Commission hereby approves the proposed transaction."
While the exact size of the deal has not been disclosed, it has been billed as one of the biggest realty deals in the country's commercial and office space real estate business.
As per the proposed deal, certain Singapore-based entities of Blackstone would get compulsorily convertible debentures of Pune Dynasty Projects Private Ltd -- currently 51 per cent owned by Embasy Property Developments Ltd (EPDL).
Upon conversion of these debentures, Blackstone Group would get 50 per cent stake in Pune Dynasty Projects Private Ltd (PDPPL) and would have joint control with Embassy group firm EPDL over the assets, business and affairs of PDPPL.
Mauritius based financial investor Alta Vista currently owns the remaining 49 per cent stake in PDPPL, which is proposed to be acquired by Embassy before the Blackstone deal.
Accordingly, PDPPL would become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Embassy group prior to the deal with Blackstone group.
The concerned parties had approached CCI on August 24 to seek the fair trade regulator's approval for the deal, after execution of their investment agreement dated August 14.
Later, CCI had asked the entities involved in the deal to remove certain "defects" and furnish additional details.
Giving its clearance, CCI said Blackstone is engaged in businesses like asset management, financial advisory, private equity funds, realty funds, hedge funds and mutual funds.
EPDL is primarily engaged in the business of real estate development and related consulting services, property leasing, among others. It mostly provides construction development and property management services in Bangalore and Pune.
Blackstone also holds certain investments in enterprises engaged in the business of development and management of commercial and office space in Pune and Bangalore.
However, the combined market share of Blackstone-invested companies and Embassy group in eight major cities of India, including Pune and Bangalore, is in single digits and the proposed combination would not be "significant enough to give rise to any adverse competitive concern," CCI said.
The regulator further said that "there are no significant entry barriers in the market for development and management of commercial and office space in India" and therefore no adverse impact was likely on the market competition.
NOIDA: Construction work in residential projects spread over six hectares of land in Sectors 75 and 120 of Noida have come to a standstill following a stay order imposed by the Allahabad high court. The stay order was granted upon a petition filed by more than 50 farmers from the neighbouring Sarfabad village. The farmers have alleged that their land was allotted to real estate developers by Noida Authority without duly completing the acquisition process.
The high court has granted two weeks for the Noida Authority to submit its reply. The next date of hearing has not yet been fixed, but the court said that it would be indicated within three weeks.
The petition filed by the farmers states that 6.7260 hectares land had been notified for acquisition by Noida Authority under Sections 4 and 17 of the Land Acquisition Act on April 7, 2011, but even before the process was completed, the Authority leased the land to various developers who have begun construction activities. The land comprises 11 khasras in Sarfabad village.
Farmers have demanded cancellation of lease deeds of private developers with the Authority and have also sought their land back. They have also demanded quashing of the acquisition procedure by revoking Section 4 of the acquisition Act. "As per law, the final award should have been completed within a year of imposing Section 4, failing which the notification stands suspended," said Amrita Rai, counsel for the farmers.
Prominent builders developing housing projects remained tight-lipped about the extent to which to the order would affect their projects. Meanwhile, the counsel for the petitioners said that even though the court has ordered halt of construction activity only across the land belonging to the petitioners, the order would affect "nearly 120 hectares of land, which is currently in the possession of more than six builders".
As per sources in the real estate industry, nearly 10,000 dwelling units are under construction in several projects estimated to be worth more than Rs 5,000 crore, which could be at stake due to the court order. The Authority said that land on which the order has been passed pertains to no more than 500 sqm. Officials said they had not yet received a copy of the court order and would "study its implications in detail" once it reaches them.
DND flyway authorities drive to help commuters move to a relatively cash-free format
NOIDA: In a bid to avoid traffic chaos similar to that faced at the Delhi-Gurgaon toll plaza, the Noida Toll Bridge Company Ltd initiated a drive recently to help the commuters move to a relatively cash-free format. In order to ensure that more customers pay electronically at the toll plaza and consequently reduce waiting time at the toll plaza, NTBCL took a host of steps such as discounts on smart card charges, easier payment options for switching to card from cash and reduced number of fields for recharging smart cards online on the company's official website.
In the drive that began on September 13 and ended earlier this week NTBCL managed to make around 4,000 users of the flyway switch to the Electronic Toll Collection system.
NTBCL also created an extra lane each for the traffic going towards Delhi from Noida and for traffic coming from Delhi towards Noida for silver card users to avoid overburdening the existing card lanes.
"We had deployed extra staff on the toll plaza lanes to help users buy the smart cards and slashed rates of the silver cards to encourage more users to switch to the electronic toll collection system. Users can recharge their smart cards on the toll plaza lanes with the help of our staff, at the customer care centre and online on our website. To make the process simpler, we also reduced the number of fields that the users needed to negotiate on the website to recharge their cards," said Anwar Abbasi, spokesperson for NTBCL.
In a similar drive in May this year, NTBCL had managed to make around 7,000 users of the flyway switch to the Electronic Toll Collection system. Encouraged by the response of the motorists, NTBCL plans to launch more such drives at regular intervals.
CREDAI asks builders not to pay bribe to officials
NEW DELHI: Hurt by allegations of corruption in the realty sector, CREDAI -- the apex body of developers -- has asked its about 10,000 members not to pay bribe to officials for getting project clearance.
"We have had enough of these charges that builders breed corruption," Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India (CREDAI) President Lalit Kumar Jain said in a statement. He was addressing the CREDAI's national convention at Barcelona that concluded yesterday.
"Launching an all out war on corruption, developers' apex body CREDAI has called upon its 10,000-strong members to stop paying bribes to officials for getting clearances," the statement added.
Jain said that a survey was conducted among the developer community on saying flatly 'No' to corruption. Many members positively reacted and some said: "Together, we shall".
"We take 18 to 36 months from change of land use to commencement of work and these delays contribute up to 40 per cent of the sale price. I have heard stories of developers' exploitation and how the corruption has reached its pinnacle," he observed.
Jain urged developers to gear up and resist all kinds of exploitation and demands for bribes, expose bribe seekers and even move courts with writ petitions and complaints.
From the government, he demanded administrative reforms to check the menace of corruption.
CREDAI President noted that mission transparency launched by the association has been accepted well and a majority of developers across the country have accepted the CREDAI's code of conduct for themselves.
That apart, various state and city units of the industry body are setting up consumer grievance cells to pro-actively settle disputes out of court.
"Similarly, one day all developers will say no to corruption and the day is not far off," Jain said, adding that the onus to fight corruption is particularly much more on the young developers than the older generations.
He informed that governments in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Chattisgarh have started moving to set up single window system for building clearances.
Many state governments are discussing the comprehensive check-list presented by CREDAI for giving project clearance through single-window.
Quoting a McKinsey report, Jain said the total shortage of dwelling units in urban areas will be 38 million units by 2030 in comparison to 24.71 million in 2007.
"The economy will have to build between 700 million and 900 million square meters of residential and commercial space a year in order to meet urban demand," he said.