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Swami India International invests $50 mn in Africa

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Accra: Swami Indian International, an Indian realty company has invested more than $50 million to construct houses in three African countries Ghana, Senegal, Gambia Tarun K Singh the company’s project manager said.

“Last year, the African Development Bank (AfDB) said Africa was growing with an urbanization rate of 3.4 percent, with cities across the continent experiencing the fastest urban growth rate globally. Unfortunately, it looks like this is not being matched by the ability to provide affordable houses,” Singh said.

“The Swami India Group has, therefore, entered a market that has real demand and is perhaps providing what governments across the continent are not able to do,” he added.

He said the company first decided to enter the accommodation market in 2004 with an investment of $500,000 in Gambia and built 169 units and a land sale project with 177 units.

“Even this is just a tip of the iceberg of how accommodation could be solved in Gambia as like other African countries, more and more continue to be without decent accommodation,” he said.

“This increasing demand has not been met by a proportionate increase in supply, resulting in widespread shortages of affordable housing units in Africa and the proliferation of informal settlements across the continent,” the AfDB had said, adding: “The related consequences and challenges are enormous not only in economic and financial terms but also in terms of human development and social dimensions.”

It is in this context that Swami India’s decision to blaze a trail in the housing market must be seen as an effort to assist governments in the countries where the company is operating and solve a deepening social problem, Tarun Singh said.

Though “the assistance from the governments has been significant,” he was quick to add that there have been challenges as the company prepares to venture in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

“We are not daunted,” he said, adding he would encourage other Indian companies to invest on the continent because “Africa has potential and it’s a good time to invest in Africa”.

Though there is a huge deficit in the sector, the poor have been hard hit because of affordability. The AfDB’s manager of the research department, Issa Faye, has identified the “poor and lower middle-income families, including those with irregular incomes in the informal sector” as remaining a key challenge to the continent’s housing finance market.

To solve the problem, he has identified Morocco’s Fonds de garantie pour populations revenus modestes et non reguliers (FOGARIM) guarantee scheme, India’s GRUH Finance and Colombia’s Fondo Nacional de Garant as successful business models which demonstrate that lending to informal sector workers may be feasible.

Tarun Singh, however, said there are some problems that must be solved immediately if investors are to be lured to enter the sector. These include the lack of skilled workers to be engaged on large-scale housing projects, high interest charged by banks and the lack of utility services such as roads, water and electricity.(IANS)(Image-static.panoramio.com)

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Sambhar Lake Becomes Death Bed for Large Number of Birds

The excessive salt in the water led to the poisoning, causing hypernectremia, which is water deprivation due to sodium intoxication

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Sambhar Lake
After witnessing drought for many years, this year the Sambhar Lake, however, brimmed with water due to heavy rains. The inflow made the water toxic due to the change in its alkalinity. Pixabay

A deadly game of survival is on in the Sambhar lake of Rajasthan for decades — salt versus birds. The result came a few days back: thousands of birds were seen floating dead in the lake and their carcasses scattered on the edge of the 12 km catchment area.

The dead birds seen floating in this largest inland salt lake in the country, include plovers, common coot, black winged stilt, northern shovelers, ruddy shelduck, and pied avocet among many other migratory birds.

Harsh Vardhan, a renowned environmentalist, told IANS that no forest department official has ever been appointed to look after the lake. The lake comes under the Hindustan Salt Limited, a public limited enterprise formed in the post independence era to manufacture salt. Its job is to manufacture salt. So who should look after the lake; this has never been decided, he said.

The lake has not been handed to the forest department, and the area, where birds come, is no one’s land. Sambhar lake may be a part of the Hindustan Salt Ltd, but the company has nothing to do with the birds, he says.

The chief wildlife warden Arindam Tomar has maintained silence over the issue.

Even, Principal secretary, forest and environment Shreya Guha has washed her hands off the issue. All that she did was to a give statement that the Jaipur and Nagaur District Collectors have been asked to remove the bodies. She added that 4,800 birds have been dead till date, which is disputed by experts like Harsh Vardhan, who say that counting is not easy in the vast area.

Chief minister Ashok Gehlot on Thursday held a meeting on the issue.

Sambhar Lake
A deadly game of survival is on in the Sambhar Lake of Rajasthan for decades — salt versus birds. Pixabay

Meanwhile, Harsh Vardhan questioned the presence of several private salt miners and entrepreneurs, who have set shops in and around the lake. “They dig tube wells which suck water from the land making it parched. The remaining water gets evaporated leaving crystal of salts which are packed and sold in gunny bags,” he said.

Lack of water and drought has haunted Sambhar lake for years. State government has been spending huge money to woo tourists through activities like mobiking, balloning, race, Bollywood shoots, etc. A resort on the rim of the lake showcases salt manufacturing for the tourists. Crores of Rupees have been spent on the upkeep of the narrow gauge train and watch stations, but birds and conversation issues were always overlooked.

As Sambhar lake went dry, concentration of salt deposits came up within it. The water from surrounding rivers, meant to flow into the lake, was diverted by the miners.

After witnessing drought for many years, this year the lake, however, brimmed with water due to heavy rains. The inflow made the water toxic due to the change in its alkalinity.

The excessive salt in the water led to the poisoning, causing hypernectremia, which is water deprivation due to sodium intoxication, Vardhan said.

It seems birds which came in high numbers due to high water quantity this season died due to hypernectermia after consuming their feed which is the planktons, the microrganisms found in water.

Sambhar Lake
The dead birds seen floating in this largest inland salt lake i.e Sambhar Lake in the country, include plovers, common coot, black winged stilt, northern shovelers, ruddy shelduck, and pied avocet among many other migratory birds. Wikimedia Commons

The only step that has ever been taken by any government in the state was in 1981 when it was decided to designate the site as wetland and was renamed as the Ramsar site.

According to an estimate, around 60,000 birds visited the lake in a year which has come down to less than 20,000.

Vardhan says that if the lake remains with the Hindustan Salt Limited, which has been a loss making unit since years or if it is handed over to the private operators, who do excessive mining of water, then the lake and the birds are sure to die.

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Experts like him want the lake to be handed over to the forest department which can develop it as a wetland. (IANS)