ADB lending Pakistan emerges as fourth largest recipient

Pakistan has emerged as the fourth largest recipient of the ADB lending amounting to 4,660 million dollars or 9.2 per cent of total Asian Development Bank (ADB) lending in 2013, revealed the Bank’s Financial Report 2013. The three largest non-sovereign country exposures as of December 31, 2013 were the People’s Republic of China (PRC) (19.9%), India (17.8%), and Pakistan (9.7%).

The relative exposure of the top three countries increased from 45.4% in 2012 to 47.4% in 2013. All country exposures complied with the ADB’s exposure limits, maintained the report. The report further states that the ADB approved $21.02 billion in financing operations last year, including $1.07 billion for Pakistan.

According to the report, the ADB’s overall loan under the OCR was $85.22 billion on December 31, 2013 wherein Pakistan’s share stood at $7.45 billion ie 8.7 per cent of the Bank’s overall programme under the OCR. The break-up of $7.45 billion showed that the loans outstanding are $4.94 billion, the balances of effective loans $1.436 billion, loans not effective yet at $1.037 billion.

Resources under Pakistan Earthquake Fund (PEF) totalled $147.2 million as of December 31, 2013 of which $128.9 million had been utilised, leaving an uncommitted balance of $18.3 million ($4.4 million as of December 31, 2012). The PEF was established in November 2005 in response to the special needs of Pakistan following the earthquake on 8 October, 2005.

The ADB also noted that meeting energy needs remain a major concern for Asia, as ongoing electricity shortages in Pakistan demonstrate. The Bank has approved a social protection development project in Pakistan to expand cash transfers to poor households, including those led by women, and developed a new Social Protection Index to help Developing Member Countries (DMCs) monitor their expenditure on social protection programmes, and the programmes’ impact. In Pakistan, the ADB approved two electricity generation projects totalling $1.07 billion. These projects are Jamshoro Power Generation Project for $900 million and Power Distribution Enhancement Investment Program-Tranche 4 for $167.2 million.

According to the report, in November 2013, the ADB was appointed by state-owned entities to identify a commercial consortium leader to build, own, and operate the planned 1,800-kilometer Turk-menistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India natural gas pipeline in the four countries concerned. The ADB’s support will include establishing the pipeline company, undertaking due diligence on the feasibility of the project, and managing the bidding for and selection of the consortium leader.

via ADB lending Pakistan emerges as fourth largest recipient | Business Recorder.

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China – Mongolia coal link agreed

MONGOLIA: Chinese state-owned mining group Shenhua, which operates 1 765 km of heavy haul coal railway in northern and central China, has signed a joint venture agreement to develop a cross-border rail link to serve the Tavan Tolgoi coalfield in the South Gobi region.

Under an agreement signed in Ulaanbaatar on April 7, Shenhua will take a 49% stake in a joint venture being formed to progress the project. The remainder will be held by a consortium of Mongolian firms, including Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi and the private sector Mongolian Mining Corp, according to Yondon Manlaibayar, Director-General of the railway department at Mongolia’s Ministry of Roads & Transport.

The joint venture will initially build a 13 km standard gauge cross-border line from the nearest Chinese railhead north of Baotou to a transloading terminal in southern Mongolia where coal will be brought from the mines by road.

A second phase would see the cross-border link extended by a further 27 km to meet the 217 km broad-gauge coal railway from the Ukhaa Khudag coking coal mine, which is being built by South Korea’s Samsung C&T under a US$483m contract awarded last year. Manlaibayar said the extension would also be 1 435 mm gauge, and a gauge-changing facility would be provided at the southern end of Samsung’s 1 520 mm gauge route.

Shenhua has already signed an agreement to buy 1 billion tonnes of coal from Mongolia over 20 years under a deal announced last October during a visit to China by Mongolian Prime Minister Norov Altankhuyag. This is reportedly one of the reasons that the joint venture has decided to develop the temporary transloading facility, rather than wait until the connection to the Korean-built line is ready.

China – Mongolia coal link agreed – Railway Gazette.

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Cabinet members endorse Laguna Lakeshore Expressway project for PNoy approval

MANILA – Cabinet members of the inter-agency Investment Coordination Committee of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA-ICC) have cleared the P122.8-billion project to build an expressway that would circle the Laguna de Bay.
Cosette Canilao, executive director of the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Center, told reporters today that the Cabinet committee of the NEDA-ICC has endorsed the Laguna Lakeshore Expressway Dike (LLED) Project for President Benigno Aquino III’s approval.

After approval by the NEDA board, which the President chairs, the project would be offered to the private sector, Canilao said.
Of the total P122.8 billion budget, P64.9 billion would be allotted for constructing the expressway dike and P57.89 billion for land reclamation.

The project has the following components:

- A 47-kilometer expressway dike with two (2) sections as follows: Bicutan-Calamba and Calamba-Los Baños; and
- Reclamation of 500-700 hectares of raw land and horizontal development of the same for mixed use.

The project aims to provide a high-standard highway that will speed up traffic between the southern part of Metro Manila and Laguna, as well as a dike that would mitigate flooding in the western coastal communities along Laguna Lake.

The proposed alignment runs 500 meters off the shoreline of the Laguna Lake.

The LLED is among the Department of Public Works and Highways’ (DPWH) PPP projects, which also includes the P35.42-billion Cavite Laguna Expressway (CALAX).

To date, the agency has awarded two other PPP projects, namely the P2.01 billion Daang Hari-SLEX to the Ayala group, and the P15.52 billion NAIA Expressway to Optimal Infrastructure of San Miguel Corp.

Cabinet members endorse Laguna Lakeshore Expressway project for PNoy approval – PPP Center.

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World Bank to give $1,100 million loan for Indian rail corridor

The World Bank has sanctioned a loan of $1,100 million for construction of 393 km long double line between Mughalsarai-Bhaupur section of Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor project.

The World Bank Board in a meeting held at Washington on April 22 sanctioned the second phase loan of $1,100 million for construction of electrified double line between Mughalsarai-Bhaupur section of Eastern DFC after completion of the process of project appraisal and loan negotiations, said a senior DFCC official.
The loan agreement for the second phase is expected to be signed in June 2014.

World Bank has agreed in principle to partly finance the Eastern Corridor project from Mughalsarai to Ludhiana, which has been divided into 3 phases.
The total loan commitment is $2.725 billion, out of which the loan for the first phase was to the tune of $975 million. It was sanctioned in May, 2011 and the loan agreement was signed in October, 2011.

Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation, a special purpose vehicle (SPV), is engaged in planning, construction, operation and maintenance of the dedicated freight corridors and in the first phase, the two corridors, namely, Eastern Corridor from Ludhiana to Dankuni (1839 kms) and the Western Corridor from Dadri to Jawaharlal Nehru Port (JNPT) (1499 kms) are being constructed.

The entire Western Corridor is being funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), while the Eastern Corridor from Mughalsarai to Ludhiana is being funded by the World Bank.

World Bank to give $1,100 million loan for Indian rail corridor – Business Today.

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IFC, Phl to ramp up green buildings project

MANILA, Philippines — International Finance Corp., a member of the World Bank Group, is stepping up its work with the Philippine government to expand the development of green buildings.

IFC is also conducting technical studies that will be used in drafting laws requiring new buildings to reduce electricity use. These measures will help the country cut the greenhouse-gas emissions of new buildings by 20 percent annually.

A forum titled “Green Building Imperative,” hosted today by IFC, the Climate Change Commission – which is chaired by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III – and the Philippine Green Building Initiative, was attended by nearly 100 local government officials.

Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senator Loren Legarda, and Climate Change Commissioner Heherson Alvarez were among those who spoke at the forum. The participants shared green building best practices and began discussing preliminary plans to adopt such practices among local governments across the country.

“The unabated use of carbon-based fuels has drastically altered our global climate—weather patterns are changing and natural disasters have become stronger, more frequent, and less predictable,” said President Benigno Aquino III in a statement released by Malacañang , adding that green building is one of the most important steps that the country must undertake in adapting to climate change and mitigating climate risk. “It is my hope that this will gain widespread acceptance among developers and major players.”

IFC also is helping the Department of Public Works and Highways update the National Building Code that will set minimum green feature requirements for new buildings, save energy and water resources, and support cost-efficient operations.

“IFC offers its global technical expertise to help Philippine government units develop their green building initiatives,” said IFC Resident Representative Jesse Ang. “We support the government in implementing its National Climate Change Action Plan, which provides for ‘greening’ the National Building Code.”

IFC’s green building program, supported by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs and the Government of Canada, works with governments and regulators to build capacity for green buildings through policy and regulatory support. It also provides financing to support private sector investments in green buildings.

IFC, Phl to ramp up green buildings project | Business, News, The Philippine Star | philstar.com.

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Russia writes off 90 percent of North Korea debt, eyes gas pipeline

Russia’s parliament has agreed to write off almost $10 billion of North Korea’s Soviet-era debt, in a deal expected to facilitate the building of a gas pipeline to South Korea across the reclusive state.

Russia has written off debts to a number of impoverished Soviet-era allies, including Cuba. North Korea’s struggling communist economy is just 2 percent of the size of neighbouring South Korea’s.

The State Duma lower house on Friday ratified a 2012 agreement to write off the bulk of North Korea’s debt. It said the total debt stood at $10.96 billion as of Sept. 17, 2012.

The rest of the debt, $1.09 billion, would be redeemed during the next 20 years, to be paid in equal instalments every six months. The outstanding debt owed by North Korea will be managed by Russia’s state development bank, Vnesheconombank.

Russia’s Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak told Russian media that the money could be used to fund mutual projects in North Korea, including a proposed gas pipeline and a railway to South Korea.

The two Koreas remain technically at war and are separated by one of the world’s most militarised frontiers. Parts of the international community have been seeking to re-engage with North Korea amid hopes that the reclusive state’s government would seek ways to end years of isolation and poverty.

Russia’s state-owned top natural producer Gazprom, has long planned to build a gas pipeline via North Korea to South Korea with a view to shipping 10 billion cubic metres of gas annually.

Moscow has been trying to diversify its energy sales to Asia away from Europe, which, in its turn, wants to cut its dependence on oil and gas from the erstwhile Cold War foe. Moscow aims to reach a deal to supply gas to China, after a decade of talks, this May.

Russia writes off 90 percent of North Korea debt, eyes gas pipeline – Yahoo News Philippines.

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The poorest rich country around

On 7 April, Nigeria’s GDP ballooned by 89 percent to a new estimate of $509.9bn after the country rebased its economy for the first time in 24 years. The new number makes Nigeria largest economy in Africa, and the 26th largest in the world.

But in the case of Nigeria’s dramatic jump, the story of what rebasing the country’s GDP tells us – and does not – about the economic fortunes of the world’s newest middle income nation is far more complicated than a straightforward narrative of growth.

The World Bank recommends that countries rebase their GDP data every three to five years, Nigeria failed to do so since 1990. This does not mean Nigeria has not produced national statistics since then; rather, that the datasets on which these calculations have been made up until now were significantly out of date. Nigerian statistics were known to be so unreliable that the country’s own central bank used to use its own data rather than rely on those produced by the national bureau of statistics.

Despite a history of inaccuracy, Nigeria’s new GDP data has been readily accepted by international economic and financial communities – and, though imperfect, it does tell us more than we knew before.

“If I had to choose between the 1990 base year data and 2010 base year data [used to calculate the 2014 rebase], I go with with the 2010 data – and that is what everyone is doing,” says Morten Jerven, a leading expert on African development statistics and a professor at Simon Fraser University. “It is a better number, that doesn’t say it is a perfect one.”

While the new base numbers also drop Nigeria’s debt-to-GDP ratio from 19 to 11 percent, this will not change Nigeria’s borrowing capacity as some predicted, explains Razia Khan, Africa economist at Standard Chartered. “Unless NIgeria has access to new streams of income, repayment capacity will not alter dramatically at all,” she says.

Changing priorities

Since the 1990 rebase, the country has undergone substantial political and economic changes; from the transition from military to civilian rule in 1999 to the emergence of new, multibillion dollar industries such as digital communications and film as a major driver of growth

It was not until recent years, when African markets began to attract greater attention from outside investors, that the importance of having good data began to be recognised.

“During that period [1990-2000], under [former President] Obasanjo, Nigeria’s main concern in dealing with the IMF, the World Bank, and international creditors was to get debt relief,” Mr Jerven explains. “Only more recently has it become a political goal to reach middle income status, to be able to attract finance on international capital markets, and so forth.”

Debt relief is only granted to low income status countries. As recently as 2005, Nigeria brokered a deal with the Paris Club of western financial institutions to receive $18bn in debt relief, and an overall reduction of total debt stock of $30bn. However, with its new GDP, Nigeria will no longer be considered low income despite high poverty rates and rapidly growing inequality. New data from the National Bureau of Statistics shows that 61 percent of the Nigerian population lived on less than a dollar a day in 2010, rising from 52 percent in 2004.

“Nigeria may no longer be eligible for some forms of concessional debt,” explains Standard Chartered’s Ms Khan. “It is rather unfortunate that it looks to be a much wealthier country than it is if we were to look at median per capita incomes. Nigeria is still essentially a poor country, but if you are just looking at averages you will miss that entirely.“

Timing the release

On the domestic front, Nigeria is heading for a hotly contested presidential election in early 2015, while internationally it is competing with the rest of the continent for investments and borrowing opportunities. How much politics factored in, however, is still up for debate – as is whether the logic behind a politically motivated release stacks up.

“If you’re looking at the numbers its not necessarily a screaming positive,” Ms Khan argues. “What it does highlight is that Nigeria is just a far more unequal society, a country, than most people would have believed.”

New statistics on government revenue collection outside of the oil sector, which supplies 70 percent of revenues, are also not very promising. “It highlights some pretty alarming ratios. Revenue to GDP falling to less than 5 percent is not a hugely positive signal at all given that it is almost 15 years into civilian rule,” says Ms Khan. “That is about the weakest revenue mobilisation ratio anywhere.”

Overestimating?

Nigeria’s heavy reliance on survey, rather than census data, to build its new GDP base means that the resulting numbers carry a human touch. Survey data collects information on a small sample of a given sector, whereas a census data requires gathering data on a sector as a whole. However, the latter is very difficult in a country like Nigeria where businesses are often unregistered and unregulated. New census data on the country’s business and agriculture sectors, for instance, was not ready in time for the rebase.

When complete data is not available, guesses had to be made, extrapolating from the small amount of information available. “There is so little raw data, so little basic data, to support the final aggregate,” claims Mr Jerven at Simon Fraser University.

Then there is also the problem of basing educated guesses for the performance of an entire sector on a small fraction of the most visible part of the economy. Nigeria’s informal sector, for instance, makes up a large part of the country’s overall economic activity – but it is notoriously difficult to measure. “The smaller economy, the informal sector, might operate on far smaller margins than the visible economy, therefore you overestimate how well the service economy is doing altogether,” he says.

As a result, Nigeria’s rebased GDP is a more contemporary snapshot of how Nigeria is performing economically – but that picture, and its ready acceptance by the international community, is colored by the interests and personalities of those who have a stake in the numbers.

“The key here is that its not about validity per se – as in accuracy. Validity is a power thing,” Mr Jerven concludes. “If everyone important sitting around the metaphorical table agreed that this is a number we will be going forward with, then it is the new number.”

The poorest rich country around – News – This is Africa.

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Philippines signs airport pact with GMR despite legal issues | Business Standard

Various ongoing legal issues notwithstanding, the GMR-Megawide consortium on Tuesday signed the concession agreement with the Philippines’ Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and Mactan Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA) for expanding the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA).

The concession agreement was signed after the consortium paid $320 million as upfront premium.

According to a statement from GMR Infrastructure, this marks the beginning of a transition phase before the operations of MCIA are formally handed over to GMR-Megawide later in the year.

After giving a bid of $320 million, the GMR-Megawide consortium had emerged as the highest bidder for the MCIA project in the international bidding process, which culminated in December. DOTC had formally issued the Letter of Award to the consortium on April 4.

Commenting on the signing of the concession agreement, G M Rao, group chairman of GMR Group, said: “By making the upfront payment of P14.4 billion ($320 million) within the stipulated time, we have clearly demonstrated our credentials and capabilities to take up this prestigious project. This is just the first step in our endeavour to transform the Mactan Cebu International Airport into a world-class airport destination.”

GMR is in a 40:60 joint venture with the Philippines-based Megawide Construction and as much as 70 per cent of the $320 million has been raised from a major bank in that country.

This move by the Philippine government comes even as a prominent Philippine politician, Serge R Osmena III filed a petition in that country’s Supreme Court to scrap the deal.

The petition said the GMR group had violated bid conditions that barred companies with a conflict of interest from bidding. He asked the court to stop the notice of award to GMR and its local consortium partner, Megawide. It outbid seven global competitors, many of which had earlier raised questions about GMR.

The conflict of interest arises because Malaysia Airport Holdings Berhad, which separately bid for the Mactan Cebu project, is also a stakeholder in GMR’s airports in Delhi and Hyderabad. Tan Bashir Ahmad, apart from being managing director of Malaysia Airport Holdings, is on the boards of the two GMR airport companies.

The petition said the other bidders were at a disadvantage because they were restricted from entering into similar arrangements. It also said the Senate Committee of Public Services had conducted two hearings on the issue and had concluded the pre-qualification bids and awards committee did not compare the submissions of the bidders in order to determine the existence of a conflict of interest. GMR has been maintaining that the company that bid for the airport was GMR Infrastructure, in which Malaysia Airport Holdings has no stake or director representation.

“The government gave us the contract only after looking into this issue, after we became the highest bidder in December,” GMR said.

The consortium of GMR Infra and Megawide Construction, a publicly held Philippine firm, will invest $375 million over five years in building a new terminal and upgrading the existing one.

At present, the Mactan Cebu International Airport can handle seven million passengers a year. The plan is to double the capacity to 14 million in the next five years. According to GMR, the airport reported $35 million in revenues in the last financial year.

GMR-Megawide plans to develop the Mactan-Cebu International Airport into a regional hub in the Philippines, creating passenger & cargo traffic growth, bringing jobs for the local community, giving a boost to the tourism traffic and creating multiplier economic benefits for the region.

GMR added this airport saw 65 per cent of its traffic coming from tourism and the rest from business travellers. “Cebu is emerging as a strong destination for BPO (business process outsourcing) services and this should fuel the growth of the airport much further,” GMR officials told Business Standard.

Bagging this contract suggests GMR’s “asset light, asset right” strategy, which it adopted nearly two years ago, might indeed have borne fruit. The company had gone for this strategy after it became highly leveraged (as much as 3.5 times) with a debt of Rs 40,000 crore for projects across its power station, airport and highway portfolios. In the past 18 months, GMR has generated close to Rs 4,000 crore free cash, besides reducing project debt by as much as Rs 10,000 crore. It will use future divestments to reduce corporate debt (close to Rs 5,000 crore at present).

The airports vertical, which accounts for about 60 per cent of the company’s overall revenue of close to Rs 10,000 crore a year, is the only profitable vertical for GMR. Implementing the increased charges at the New Delhi international airport, besides revenues from the Hyderabad airport, has been among the main drivers for the company.

Highlights:

* GMR Infra’s 40:60 joint venture with the Philippines-based Megawide Construction has won the project to expand & modernise the Mactan-Cebu international airport

* The GMR consortium on Tuesday made the upfront consession payment of $320 million

* GMR Infra’s share: The highly-leveraged GMR Infra has said its equity contribution to the project will be about $50 mn

* Investment: The consortium plans to invest $375 million in building a new terminal and upgrading the existing one

* The The airport’s current capacity is 7 mn passengers a year; this is planned to be doubled over the next 5 years

* At present, the Mactan-Cebu international airport has an annual revenue of $35 million

* The Cebu project has come within months of GMR selling its 40% stake in an airport in Istanbul, Turkey, for around Rs 1,300 crore, as part of its “asset light, asset right” strategy

* For GMR Infra, the airports vertical is the only profitable one in a portfolio that includes power stations, highways and urban infra

* At present, GMR operates international airports in New Delhi and Hyderabad

* GMR was forced out of an airport project in the Maldives. The company is contesting this through an arbitration in Singapore and seeking a compensation of $1.4 billion

* GMR is also planning a public offer for its airport assets, which have a revenue of Rs 6,500 crore – around 60 per cent of its total revenues

Philippines signs airport pact with GMR despite legal issues | Business Standard.

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Distributed diesel traction tested on Europe’s longest freight train

EUROPE: On April 12 Fret SNCF operated a 1 524 m long freight train between Sibelin yard near Lyon and Nîmes, hauled at up to 100 km/h by two Euro 4000 diesel locomotives built by Vossloh España. Weighing 4 020 tonnes, ‘the longest freight train ever run in Europe’ comprised 72 wagons originally formed as separate rakes of 40 and 32 vehicles, operating regular Kombiverkehr intermodal services between Germany and Spain.

The second locomotive marshalled within the consist was controlled remotely from the head of the train, following work by Vossloh to develop new radio antennae and modify the driver’s desk. The radio control system has been developed by Createch and Schweizer Electronic, while Faiveley has been responsible for braking systems.

Diesel traction has been tested during the second phase of trials under Project Marathon, a programme funded by the European Union which aims to reduce operating costs by 30% and increase capacity on key corridors by operating longer freight trains.

Noting that the record train length had been made possible by the various skills of the 16 project partners, French Transport Minister Frédéric Cuvillier said that regular operation of longer freight trains on the major European corridors was ‘clearly foreseeable’ within two years. Routes being considered within France include those from Paris to Lille and Bayonne near the Spanish border, as well as Paris – Marseille, Paris – Le Havre and Bettembourg – Perpignan which are already able to accommodate freight trains up to 850 m in length.

Distributed diesel traction tested on Europe’s longest freight train – Railway Gazette.

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Pakistan Turns to Solar Energy to Combat Energy Crisis

HOPING TO ATTRACT INVESTORS, AND REDUCE THE POWER SHORTFALL, THE GOVERNMENT HAS BUILT UP INFRASTRUCTURE IN THE CHOLISTAN DESERT.

For years Pakistanis have sweated and cursed through summer power cuts, but now the government plans to harness the sun’s heat to help tackle the country’s chronic energy crisis.

In a corner of the Cholistan desert in Punjab province, power transmission lines, water pipes and a pristine new road cross 10,000 acres of parched, sandy land. The provincial government has spent $5 million to put in place the infrastructure as it seeks to transform the desolate area into one of the world’s largest solar power parks, capable one day of generating up to 1,000 megawatts of electricity.

The desert park in Bahawalpur district is the latest scheme to tackle the rolling blackouts that have inflicted misery on people and strangled economic growth. Temperatures can reach 50 degrees Celsius in the country’s center in June and July, sending demand for electricity soaring and leaving a shortfall of around 4,000 MW.

“In phase one, a pilot project producing 100 MW of electricity will hopefully be completed by the end of this year,” said Imran Sikandar Baloch, head of the Bahawalpur district administration. “After completion of the first 100 MW project, the government will invite investors to invest here for the 1,000 megawatts.”

Engineers and laborers are working in the desert under the scorching sun to complete the boundary wall, with authorities keen to begin generating solar electricity by November. “If you come here after one and a half years, you will see a river of [solar] panels, residential buildings and offices—it will be a new world,” said site engineer Muhammad Sajid, gesturing to the desert.

Besides solar, Pakistan is also trying to tap its unexploited coal reserves, which lie in another area of the same desert, in Sindh province. In January Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif inaugurated construction on a $1.6 billion coal plant in the town of Thar, in Sindh. Work has also begun on a pilot 660-megawatt coal-fired plant in Gadani. Another 600-megawatt coal plant has also been given the go-ahead in the southern city of Jamshoro. But while coal may offer a short-term fix to the energy crisis, authorities are keen to move to cleaner electricity in the long run.

“We need energy badly and we need clean energy, this is a sustainable solution for years to come,” said Baloch. “Pakistan is a place where you have a lot of solar potential. In Bahawalpur, with very little rain and a lot of sunshine, it makes the project feasible and more economical,” he said.

Baloch believes that the new solar park will make Pakistan a leader in that energy in the region. The initial pilot project is a government scheme but private investors are also taking an interest.

Raja Waqar of Islamabad-based Safe Solar Power is among them. His company plans to invest $10 million to build a 10 MW project in the new park. “The government has allotted us land over here. Infrastructure—the transmission line and road are available here, that is why we are investing,” said Waqar. A million dollars per MW is a sizeable investment but Waqar said the company expected to reap returns on it over at least the next decade—and others were keen to get on board.

“There are up to 20 companies who are investing in this park and their projects are in the pipeline,” he said. “Some of them are working on 50 MW, some on 10 and others on 20.”

But not everyone is so upbeat about the project.

Arshad Abbasi, an energy expert at Islamabad’s Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), said the cost of generating solar power from this project might be uneconomical for the government. He also warned that buying solar equipment abroad made little economic sense. “Had the government decided to establish more hydro or thermal plants in the country it would have generated more employment, business and construction opportunities,” he said.

And farmers in the area who scrape a living herding cattle on the unforgiving land are worried about their future. “We don’t know if this energy park is good, the power will come or not, we only want the government to spare our area and allow us to continue living here with our cattle,” said Malik Jalal, a local villager.

Pakistan Turns to Solar Energy to Combat Energy Crisis ‹ Newsweek Pakistan.

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Passenger train derailed in Kazakhstan’s west, 44 injured. Emergencies. Tengrinews.kz

An Almaty-Atyrau passenger train No.41 has run off track in Aytrau Oblast in western Kazakhstan on Saturday evening, April 19. Kazakhstan Transport Prosecutor’s Office opened a criminal case in relation to the accident, Tengrinews reports citing the press office of the Ministry of Emergency Situations.

580 tickets were sold the train, but according to the Emergency Situations Department there was a total of 495 people on the train travelling to Atyrau during the accident, both passengers and train staff. 5 people were hospitalized with serious injuries after the accident. No one was killed.

“We were sitting and drinking tea when carriages started shaking and ran off track. There were people who broke legs, noses or just got bruised badly. Ambulances arrived to the site and took them away,” one of the passengers Talant Iskaliev said.

12 out of 19 carriages derailed at Sagiz-Makat section of the railway.

A total of 44 people were injured in the accident. 21 of the them had to be taken to nearby hospitals. 5 of them were injured gravely. Six of the injured were delivered to Atyrau (the nearest large city) by a medical helicopter.

Passengers were delivered from the accident site to the nearest station Makat by buses.

Kazakhstan Temir Zholi (KZT), Kazakhstan’s national railway operator, reported that railway traffic was restored at 6:00 a.m. on April 20. The accident caused a hold-up of 10 other passenger trains and 34 cargo trains.

“The national railway company made all the necessary efforts to restore the traffic and put all the delayed trains back on schedule. 218 workers, 2 emergency trains, 25 special vehicles like tractors and cranes were involved in liquidating the aftermath of the accident,” KTZ reported.

The accident cause is yet to be determined. The Ministry of Transport and Communication representatives arrived to the site of the accident for investigation.

Passenger train derailed in Kazakhstan's west, 44 injured. Emergencies. Tengrinews.kz.

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Japan presents $57-B ‘dream plan’ to solve Metro congestion

MANILA, Philippines — Noting that Metro Manila’s traffic, infrastructure and housing problems can no longer be solved by the National Capital Region alone, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has come up with a “Dream Plan” for what it calls a “Greater Capital Region,” composed of the NCR and neighboring Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog.

In a JICA study titled “Roadmap for Transport Infrastructure Development for Metro Manila and its Surrounding Areas,” a copy of which was obtained by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the technical arm of the Japanese government’s official development aid program said “Regions III and IV-A must work out effective ways to maximize the positive aspects of their proximity to the buzzling capital region and at the same time contribute to mitigating the problems of the metropolis.”

The study, conducted from March to December 2013, recommended public and private sector investments of up to $57.3 billion through 2030 to realize the overall impact encapsuled in five “NOs”—“No traffic congestion, no excessive transport cost burden for low income groups, no households living in high hazard risk areas, no barriers for seamless mobility of people, and no air pollution” in the Mega Manila area.

The dream plan’s vision is “growth with GPS,” short for “Gate to a wellspring of hope, Place for livable communities and Space for dynamic business centers.”

The JICA proposed the following short-term projects aimed at solving Metro Manila’s worsening traffic problems, hazard risks and growth management:

• Urban roads: Rehabilitation of major roads like the 23-kilometer Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, or Edsa, the country’s busiest thoroughfare; develop secondary roads; and completion of the so-called “missing links,” which refer to flyovers, interchanges and bridges.

•Expressways: Complete the North Luzon Expressway and South Luzon Expressway connection, including their access to the country’s major ports; build the C-6 Extension, Laguna lakeshore dike road and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport expressway; and finalize an overall metropolitan expressway network plan.

•Urban railways: Finish committed urban rail projects and their connectivity; build the North-South Commuter Rail, which aims to connect Malolos, Bulacan in Central Luzon and Calamba, Laguna, in Southern Tagalog.

•Road-based public transport: Modernize bus and jeepney operations and facilities, as well as improve and expand sidewalks and pedestrians.

•Traffic management: Strengthen traffic enforcement capacities; introduce systematic road safety interventions; and conduct comprehensive traffic management studies.

•Gateway airports and ports: Conduct studies on the development of a new international airport that will replace the aging Ninoy Aquino International Airport, which can be closed and converted to a business district, and options like putting up a new facility in Sangley, Cavite City; development of the Clark International airport in Pampanga into a secondary gateway airport; redevelopment of Manila’s Port Area, but a cap should be placed on the expansion of Manila ports; and facilitate the diversion of Manila port operations to Batangas City and the Subic Freeport in Zambales.

According to JICA, “transport can be a catalyst to integrate cities, growth centers, gateways, urban and rural areas, facilitate local economic development and promote environmental protection sustainability, as well as facilitate the planned and guided growth and expansion of Metro Manila.”

For short-term programs, it said these were “doable or with a high possibility of being completed” during the period 2014 to 2016.

In its proposed action plan, the agency also called for the clearing of backlogs in unimplemented government infrastructure projects; close monitoring of the delivery capacity of transport agencies; improving management control of unsolicited proposals for road and railway projects to ensure network integrity; creating clear policy frameworks for privatization of railway lines to avoid direct state involvement in rail operations; harnessing resources of local government units in the construction of secondary roads; and outsourcing project studies to support current institutional weaknesses.”

The JICA study noted that about 500,000 people live in “high hazard risk areas” in Metro Manila and 1.4 million people in similar areas in Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog.

On the other hand, about 700,000 people reside in “moderate hazard risk areas” in the NCR and P1.8 million people in similar communities in Regions III and IV-A.

The agency also reported a “backlog of 800,000 housing units in Metro Manila,” and pointed out the “need to resettle 300,000 additional households,” including squatter families.

It proposed that squatter families living in high risk areas and those in need of affordable housing be accommodated in “planned new urban areas with good accessibility and living environment” in the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite and Laguna.

“Opportunities exist for large-scale new towns development” in Regions III and IV-A for both public and private properties in these areas.

The JICA stressed the need to “strengthen development control and guidance to the private sector to maximize benefits to both public and private sectors.”

Other key government interventions include “an integrated transport mobility, disaster preparedness and resilience, good environment and high-quality public space, affordable housing policy and delivery program, and land use management and development control.”

In its study, the JICA study said it consulted several Philippine government agencies, including the National Economic and Development Authority, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Transportation and Communications, and the Metro Manila Development Authority, as well as some private sector stakeholders.

Japan presents $57-B ‘dream plan’ to solve Metro congestion | Inquirer Global Nation.

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Canadians back PH plea to take back waste

MANILA, Philippines — Even Canadians want their government to take back the trash that was shipped from their country to the Philippines.

More than 11,000 Canadians have signed a Filipino-initiated petition for the Canadian government to “re-export” some 50 containers of adult diapers and household waste held at the Manila container port in January, a shipment that has drawn criticism from environment and health groups here.

In an update on petition platform Change.org, petition starter Anna Kapunan said “more Canadians are empathetic to the issue,” one that a coalition of Philippine organizations has been actively pushing for resolution by the Canadian government.
The Bureau of Customs found on January 21 that the shipment, declared as “scrap plastic materials for recycling,” actually contained waste materials, including adult diapers and other household waste.

Ontario-based Chronic Inc. shipped the containers to Manila through its Valenzuela-based consignee Chronic Plastics. The vans remain unclaimed at the port in Manila, worrying local groups of the shipment’s possible hazard to public health and the environment. The firm has denied it shipped anything illegal.

“I can’t even comprehend the reasons why these containers would ship to the Philippines. How horrible for the Philippines!!! This definitely should be stopped and Canadian garbage should remain on Canadian soil for Canadians to deal with. I’m truly sorry this is happening. Here’s hoping our petitions and government can make it stop,” said Roxanne Letourneau of Winnipeg, Canada, commenting on the petition.

Susan Dales of Mississauga, Ontario, wondered why it was taking so long for the issue to be resolved.

“The fact that now, in April, this illegal hazardous waste has not been totally cleaned up and all involved agencies, government in the Philippines have not been reimbursed is disgusting. As a Canadian, I’m insulted,” said Dales, who hails from the same province where the shipment came from.

“It is my hope that the fine (there will be one, right!) imposed on the offending Ontario company will be of such size as to deter any other party anywhere in the world from attempting the same action. And maybe a jail sentence?” she said.

Jean McLaren of Gabriola, Canada, among some 1,326 Canadians who posted a comment on the petition, said it was “disgusting” for Canada to export its trash.

“I think it is appalling that Canada would send our garbage to the Philippines. We have no right to do that,”
The coalition, composed of ANG NARS Party-List, Greenpeace, Ecowaste Coalition, Mother Earth Foundation, Green Convergence, Ban Toxics, Public Services Labor Independent Confederation and the Ateneo School of Government, on Monday handed over their petition to the Canadian Embassy in Manila.

In a recent interview, Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines Neil Reeder said the Canadian government was “trying to resolve it as quick as we can.”

“Well right now, we are examining this issue between our government and the government of the Philippines to determine what exactly has transpired that would bring us to a situation where these containers have now arrived and the allegations that they were not brought here properly,” Reeder said.

“We don’t want this to be a stain on our very, very good relationship (between Canada and the Philippines),” he said.
The BOC earlier called on Canada to take back the shipment under the 1995 Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and Their Disposal, which provides that “the exporting country must take back the waste materials if the receiving country refuses to accept them.”

The Philippines and Canada are among the 180 signatories to the agreement.

The BOC also filed criminal charges against Chronic Plastics last month for violations of the Revised Penal Code, the Tariff and Customs Code and the 1990 Toxic Waste act.

Canadians back PH plea to take back waste | Inquirer Global Nation.

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South Korean Ferry Investigation Broadens as Death Toll Tops 150

More than 100 people remain missing after the Sewol sank off South Korea last week, prompting the arrest of at least seven crew members.

A series of funerals were held Tuesday morning for victims of the ill-fated ferry that sank off South Korea’s coast six days earlier, as the death toll surpassed 150.

The number of deaths from the Sewol has rapidly increased since divers found additional paths to enter the submerged vessel and took advantage of the neap tide, with dozens of bodies recovered on Tuesday and 28 the day before. The majority of the 376 passengers on board were high school students going on a field trip to the resort island of Jeju. Over a hundred passengers remain missing.

“The conditions are so bad, my heart aches,” rescue diver Bard Yoon told CNN. “We’re going in thinking there may be survivors. When we have to come back with nothing, we can’t even face the families.”

The incident is the worst maritime disaster in the country since 1993 and has stirred outrage among relatives, who have lashed out against the government for not managing to rescue more than 174 people.

South Korean authorities broadened their investigation on Monday as they arrested four additional crew members and barred the family who owns the ferry’s operating company from leaving the country.

“The measure is to question them and hold them responsible for the poor management of the vessel,” a prosecution official told the nation’s Yonhap news agency.

An extra deck was added to the 20-year-old ferry after the company acquired it in 2012, raising questions about how well balanced the modifications made it.

The ferry’s captain and two crew members have already been charged with negligence of duty and violating maritime law after abandoning the ship without efficiently helping passengers, an act labeled “unforgivable” and “murderous” by President Park Geun-hye on Monday.

According to the Korea Herald, the captain is likely to face a life sentence in prison. On Monday a chief engineer on board attempted suicide but is reportedly in stable condition and will soon be summoned for further questioning.

Not all crew members are accused of wrongdoing, though. Some reportedly gave their life jackets to passengers, and one woman refused to leave before helping students off the ship. She was later found dead, becoming one of the at least seven crew members who lost their lives or are still missing.

South Korean Ferry Investigation Broadens as Death Toll Tops 150 | TIME.com.

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Iranian, Georgian railways to be linked through Azerbaijan

Development of ties between Iran, Azerbaijan and Georgia, and linking Iranian and Georgian railways via Azerbaijan correspond to the entire region’s interests, according to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Rouhani made these remarks at a meeting with Georgia’s new ambassador to Iran, Iosif Chakashvili, Iran’s IRNA news agency said on April 22.

Hassan Rouhani stressed that Iran is determined to connect its railway with Georgia’s railway through Azerbaijan. He went on to add that an access to the Black Sea via the Georgian Batumi Port is especially important for Iran.

“Iran is interested in developing relations with its neighbors, especially with Georgia,” Rouhani said.

The meeting also discussed the need to implement preferences to expand cooperation in the private sector between the two countries and increase academic links.

It should be noted that Georgian ambassador presented his credentials to the Iranian president on Tuesday, April 22.

Iranian officials were earlier planning to construct Qazvin-Rasht-Astara railway before March 2014. The railway’s route is complex and includes 22 tunnels and 15 special bridges. About 70 percent of the construction of 15 tunnels has been completed.

Iranian, Georgian railways to be linked through Azerbaijan – Trend.Az.

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IFC to Invest $26 Million in Pakistan Wind Power Project

International Finance Corp., the World Bank’s private-sector financing arm, will invest $26 million in a wind farm in Pakistan.

The project will be built in Thatta District in Sindh province and will cost about $132 million, IFC said in an investment proposal in August. The 50-megawatt project will be developed by Karachi-based Metro Power Co. and generate enough electricity to supply about 270,000 people a year, according to a statement on IFC’s website.

Metro Power is owned by the Iqbal Alimohamed family and InfraCo Asia Keenjhar Wind Pvt. The two owners of the company will pay for 22.5 percent of the project’s cost, according to the statement.

IFC to Invest $26 Million in Pakistan Wind Power Project – Bloomberg.

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W’Bank approves $250m for water supply in Nigeria

The World Bank has approved a credit facility of $250m from the International Development Association to help the Nigerian government to increase access to water supply services and to improve the financial and management viability of existing utilities.

The bank disclosed this in a statement made available to our correspondent in Abuja on Monday.

According to the bank, the funds will target the poor urban population living in state capitals and their surroundings, and will benefit some two million people.

It said that the credit would support the Third National Urban Water Sector Reform Project and respond to the Federal Government’s goal of developing more effective mechanisms for social service delivery, particularly water service, as a means of addressing inequality in income and opportunities.

The funds would help to rehabilitate and build the water delivery infrastructure and institutional systems needed to expand access to water supply services for people in selected cities in Bauchi, Ekiti, and Rivers states, it added.

A portion of the project is performance-based and will include incentives for improving the performance of the water supply institutions in the three states.

According to the statement, the second project component will provide technical and financial assistance to state governments and water utilities in Kano, Gombe, Benue, Jigawa, Ondo, Abia, Bayelsa, Anambra, and Plateau states to help prepare them for large water supply investments that can be financed in the future.

The World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, said the Ministry of Water Resources would also benefit from the strengthened capacity to monitor and benchmark the water sector’s performance, and accordingly, increased accountability from the states for their performance.

She said, “Today’s project builds on past experience, which has shown that building water infrastructure without strengthening the capacity of the institutions responsible for managing water supply to the targeted areas does not lead to sustainable results.”

W’Bank approves $250m for water supply in Nigeria.

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GMR-Megawide gets Mactan-Cebu airport concession from DOTC

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) signed the concession agreement for the Mactan-Cebu International Airport on Tuesday, paving the way for consortium GMR-Megawide to upgrade the second-busiest airport in the Philippines.

The 25-year concession was signed after the consortium fulfilled all post-award requirements that included paying the Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA) the P 14.4-billion premium GMR-Megawide offered in its financial bid.

“Operations and maintenance (O&M) of the airport will be turned over by MCIAA to GMR-Megawide within the next six (6) months, which means that the public can expect private sector
efficiency and more customer-oriented services at the airport beginning in October 2014,” the DOTC said in an e-mailed statement.

Part of the deal is for the concessionaire to start building a new passenger terminal building by January 2015 and to complete the project in three years or by January 2018. The new terminal – next to the present passenger terminal – will be dedicated to international flights.

Once the international terminal is complete, GMR-Megawide start the renovation works on the present terminal which is expected to be complete and to start serving domestic passengers in January 2019.

The contract was signed between the Philippine government and GMR-Megawide after a 15-day window for those with complaints against the winning concession to file a motion has lapsed. No bidder filed any motion, according to DOTC.

The department said it also hasn’t received any injunction from the Supreme Court to keep the government and GMR-Megawide from signing the concession agreement and fulfilling its terms and conditions.

GMR-Megawide, a partnership between Megawide Construction Corp. and GMR of Bangalore, India, won the Mactan-Cebu International Airport expansion project last Dec. 12 by bidding P14.404 billion for the public-private partnership undertaking.

It bested other investors led by SM Group, Ayala Corp., San Miguel Corp., JG Summit Holdings Inc., and Metro Pacific Investments Corp.

GMR-Megawide gets Mactan-Cebu airport concession from DOTC | Economy | GMA News Online.

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Saudi Arabia to begin building world’s tallest skyscraper

The Kingdom Tower in Jeddah will be 1km tall, dwarfing the current tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai

Kingdom Tower terrace

 

Saudi Arabia is scheduled to begin building the world’s tallest tower next week, which will soar 1km in to the sky when completed.

The Kingdom Tower in the coastal city of Jeddah will measure 3,280 feet (1km), some 568 feet (173 meters) taller than the current Guinness world record holder, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, which stands at 2,716 feet (827 metres).

At an estimated cost of $1.23bn, the tower in Saudi will require approximately 5.7 million square feet of concrete, 80,000 tonnes of steel for its 200 floors and will take five years to complete, according to The Saudi Gazette.

The tower, overlooking the Red Sea, will feature a five-star Four Seasons hotel, apartments, office space and an observatory.
But constructing the tower is not without its many challenges.

Firstly, the tower’s structure needs to be able to withstand the saltwater of the nearby ocean.

Consultants Advanced Construction Technology Services will be testing the strength of different concretes that can be used for the tower’s 200 feet (60 metres) deep foundations.

Secondly, wind load will be a problem for this gargantuan building, so the tower will change shape regularly to counter it.

Gordon Gill, of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill, the design architects for the building, told Construction Weekly that “because it changes shape every few floors, the wind loads go round the building and won’t be as extreme as on a really solid block.”

Another issue is delivering concrete to the higher floors. When the Burj Khalifa was built, six million cubic feet of concrete was pushed through a single pump at night when temperatures were low enough to ensure that it would set, which could be an option in Saudi.

While the plans for the building are ambitious, Sang Dae Kim, the director of the Council of Tall Buildings, told Construction Weekly that building a tower 1,000 metres in to the sky was feasible.

“At this point in time we can build a tower that is one kilometer, maybe two kilometers. Any higher than that and we will have to do a lot of homework,” he said.

Saudi Arabia to begin building world’s tallest skyscraper – Telegraph.

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Powered by pee: New filtration system converts urine into water and electricity

The average person urinates seven times per day, and it is hard not to think of the bodily fluid as waste. But to scientists at NASA and the University of Puerto Rico, one person’s pee could be that same person’s refreshing glass of water — and power supply. A newly developed filtration system has the capability of turning urine into water and create electricity with the waste material. The results were published last month in the journal Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering.

The International Space Station (ISS) has been using a similar urine converting system since 2008. Col. Chris Hadfield, who has spent a total of six months in space, demonstrated the process in one of his incredible YouTube videos:

The drawbacks of the current filtration system include its high energy intake and bulk waste produced. (It is also rather glitchy.)

The new system not only filters water, but also takes the leftover waste and uses it to generate energy. According to Science News:

“To pull pure water out of urine, the system uses forward osmosis, which, as the name implies, works in the opposite direction of the reverse osmosis systems found at many kitchen sinks. Forward osmosis uses a concentrated salt or sugar solution to draw the water out of urine. Next, enzymes in a bioreactor convert the leftover urea into ammonia, which feeds into an electrochemical cell that uses the ammonia to generate electricity.”

For now the system is just a prototype. Though it reclaims over 90% of the water put into it, the device is still only producing a tiny stream of electricity — about as much as static electricity on a balloon. “Still,” lead author Eduardo Nicolau told Science News, “our system is a proof of concept, and we are still working to increase the overall efficiency.” The goal if for the device to produce enough electricity to power itself.

Another drawback is one of the devices necessary inputs: oxygen. This means the system would require another oxygen producing device, or back-up oxygen.

Overall the innovative prototype is an important step for both space travel and at home use. Water supply is one of the largest impediments of long-distance space travel. Without urine recycling, 80 to 90 percent of the weight of a spaceship could be water. Rocketing up all that weight costs an exorbitant amount: around $10,000 per pound to launch a vessel into orbit. The device could also be used, on Earth, where water is scarce and conservation is key.

There is no word yet about how the recycled urine-water tastes. In theory the water produced by the device is drinkable. However, it has not been tested for pathogens or microbes, so Nicolau and his team have not yet tried it. They promised Science News a photo when they do.

Powered by pee: New filtration system converts urine into water and electricity – Salon.com.

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