Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Cost of a Stadium

How much does it cost to build a stadium?

Over the past one week a controversy has been raging over the cost of building a cricket stadium in New Delhi. The Chief Minister of Delhi claims that his office was raided by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) because his office had been investigating the shell companies behind a controversial "refurbishment" of the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium which cost about ₹ 142 Cr (USD 22 m). He also alleges that the money trail leads up to Arun Jaitley, India's Finance Minister.

Not the one to take things lying down, the country's Finance Minister has now filed a defamation case against the Chief Minister.

As allegations and counter-allegations fly to and fro, here are some figures that put things in perspective:

  • A brand new stadium was contructed at Dharamshala for ₹ 20 Crores (USD 3 million)
  • Prior to the Commonwealth Games 2010, the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium was refurbished at the cost of ₹ 600 Crores (USD 92 m)
  • The iconic "Birds Nest" stadium built for the Beijing Olympics cost USD 243 million (₹ 2,750 Cr).
  • In Japan, there was a huge controversy over the cost of a new stadium for the Tokyo Olympics 2020. A design created by Zaha Hadid costing USD 2.1 billion (₹ 13,650 Cr), It has now been replaced by a "cheaper" design that costs only USD 1.2 billion (₹ 7,800 Cr)

If we take the Dharamshala stadium as a realistic local reference point, the cost of JLN stadium and FZK stadum certainly seems over the top. But this should not come as a big surprise to any of us because we all know that in the absence of transparent funding to political parties, there is really no incentive towards having projects that have zero kickbacks.

Ultimately, as the old saying goes, "When elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled."


* BBC - http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-35158004
* Financial Times -- http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/b5db6708-a874-11e5-955c-1e1d6de94879.html#axzz3v4mJWh9V
* Zahid's Stadium design for Tokyo -- http://www.zaha-hadid.com/architecture/new-national-stadium/

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Latest Tango in Paris

"Would you be interested in a smoke-less choolha?
...And how about a lantern that takes energy from the sun to light up your home at night?"

If you are shooting these questions at a bleary eyed villager's wife in a remote village in South Asia,  bewildered disbelief is what you would get. Why would anybody come around asking such inane questions? Would such new fangled things fit into the rough and tumble of living on a farm? Who can afford such gadgets anyway?

And yet, this is exactly what is happening in hundreds of villages in Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, India, and other parts of the world. Life is becoming a wee bit easier -- thanks to events that have been unfolding in far away places like Stockholm, Rio De Janerio, Cartagena, and now, Paris.

Thanks to increasingly unpredictable changes in weather patterns, Climate Change has gradually moved from the realm of eggheads to actions that have a real impact on the ground.

Back in October, 1991, a diverse group of 183 countries met at Rio de Janerio. This meeting led to Conference of Parties (CoP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Then a partnership with international institutions to deal with global environmental issues led to the formation of the Global Environment Facility (GEF). Since then this insitution has provided over $12.5 billion in grants and leveraging $58 billion in co-financing for over 3,690 projects in over 165 countries.

This is an endeavour of amazing complexity. As with other most multilateral funding projects, GEF too operates through a wide range f partners: UNDP, UNIDO, ADB, WB, and a host of bilateral agencies and national governments. Each of them has a different way of working - UNDP partners with local government bodies while ADB and WB seem to prefer a a more direct approach to disbursal of funds.

For the past two decades, a complex machinery has been slowly grinding its way through the buureaucracy, resulting in some of the most unexpected sights across the world: people lugging equipment across remote areas -  wind turbines, micro/mini hydel systems, solar panels -  trying to get self-contained communities to increase their dependence on strange, new equipment, all for the Greater Common Good.

What about the biggest guzzlers of fossil fuels, like factories, power plants and automobiles?  Until now big changes in the developing countries were conditional upon receiving finance and technology from developed countries, as entitlements, not as foreign assistance.

How does the Paris Agreement change this?



* UNFCC - Technology Transfer Framework -- http://unfccc.int/ttclear/templates/render_cms_page?TTF_home

* https://www.thegef.org/gef/gef_projects_funding

* (15 Dec 15 IE) - A long way from Rio -- http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/paris-climate-talks-a-long-way-from-rio/

Friday, December 11, 2015

Modi-Abe Camaradarie - Getting Down to Brasstacks

Prime Minister Abe in India now, and its time, once again, for the media to make hay while sun shines.

The Indian Express has come out with a special RED 'advertorial' initiative (pages 6-7) to mark the ocassion. It has the usual (unattributed) writeups on the history of investment, trade and social cooperation between Indian and Japan, as well as fillers to mark spaces where the expected advt revenue did not turn up. One of these is a "Fact File" box right below a message from the new ambassador designate, Mr. Kenji Hiramatsu, and the first point here states: "Japan is the world's largest consumer of Amazon rainfalls"!

Indian Express Fact File: Really?

What was that again?? Japan is the world's largest consumer of rainforest wood, but where on earth did the IE staffer get this absurd "fact"?

Not to be left behind, the HT Mint marketing media initiative carries a marketing initiative titled "India-Japan Deepens Ties". Here too the only advertisement is from Maruti Suzuki and the set pieces toss around numbers that make little sense. During Modi's visit last year, the title article claims, "Abe had set a target of 3.5 trillion yen $33.5 billion of public and private investment.." . There is no mention of how much of this has actually fructified over the past one year, since November 2014. The only data point at hand is a 2013 FDI figure of $1.7 billion!

Perhaps journalists working on advertorials can be excused for putting out shoddy data. However, the loss of credibility in the color-pages is not balanced out in the editorials or oped pages. In the opinons section there is one piece from Harsh V Pant who makes one pointed comment - "Thought there has been significant movement on these issues over the past year, these initiative still remain highly contested between the bureaucracies of the two nations."

Therein lies the rub. The Dedicated Freight Corridor project agreed a decade ago continues to be a snailpaced work-in-progress. And now we have the new promise of a $14.7 billion (₹ 98,000 Cr) bullet train project linking Mumbai and Ahmedabad.

While there has been a lot of hype around the Modi-Abe camradarie, substantial progress on India-Japan linkages is still bogged down in the red-tape, both in New Delhi and in Tokyo.

What exactly does it take to get the babu's cracking on both the sides?


* 11Dec15 - Reuters - Japan's bid for bullet train gets cabinet nod -- http://in.reuters.com/article/india-japan-train-idINKBN0TT0PI20151210
- Cabinet approval for $14.7 billion Japanese proposal...Mumbai-Ahmedabad - 503 km...Japan had offered to finance 80 percent of the cost ...at an interest rate of less than 1 percent.

* Pant, Harsh - 11Dec15 - The Abe-Modi Connect - http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/yoDbATculxoLxfwhlzSL8N/The-AbeModi-connect.html
- US-2 amphibious aircraft - submarines - nuclear plants
- Earlier this year Japan lost out to China is a bid for a high-speed railway in Indonesia

* Mint marketing media initiative
- 2014 Abe set a target of Yen 3.5 trillion $33.5 billion of public and private investment and financing from Japan including ODA to be made over a period of 5 years
- JETRO - number of Jap companies operating in India has grown from 267 in 2006, to over 1800 in 2013.

* 11Dec15 -- IE -- http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/japanese-pm-shinzo-abe-to-arrive-today-number-of-pacts-on-table/

Thursday, December 10, 2015

WiFi Spectrum Anayzers

WiFi - CR Park, Delhi

These days, there are few things as indispensible as WiFi networks.

No hotel or restaurant worth its salt will scrimp on bandwidth when it comes to offering WiFi as a free service to its customers. Forget the McDonald's even most ramshackle dhaba's along the national highways are offering it as a bait for those who are hungry for data.

In this scenario, it is interesting to scan WiFi networks while you are on the move. The above screenshot was taken at CR Park market in South Delhi. Well past 8:00 PM, the analyser showed up no less than 20 separate routers in a 20 sqft area.

It is one thing to see the colorful parabola's bobbing up and down the graph and another to actually understand what they actually mean.

Why, for instance, is the signal strength in dBm (decibels milliwatts)  going upwards from negative hundred (-100 dBm) towards zero?

How does the address system in WiFi devices various devices link up to the the IP addresses? Why are these in six sets of alphanumeric characters separated by a colon, as opposed to numeric IP addresses that come in sets of four numbers each?

Why is the bandwidth restricted to 11 to 14 channels?

How do the WiFi transmitting devices manage to keep their frequencies in such a sharp range? Rather mindboggling when you learn that these signals are being sent out in Giga Hertz -- 1000,000,000 vibrations per second!


* dBm in Wiki -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DBm

* how to fix your wifi network - http://www.pcworld.com/article/260524/how_to_fix_your_wi_fi_network_7_tips.html

Monday, December 07, 2015

Willful Blindness

You can take a horse to water but you can't make him drink.

What about the guy who is taking the horse to water? Does he and his community react in a rational way when faced with inconvenient facts?

Willful blindness seems to be a lot more common that we would care to believe. An excellent TED talk by Margaret Heffernan -

But then, as always, there are at least two ways of looking at anything. Heffernan refers to USA's actions in Iraq and the Middle East as an act of willful blindness, but Edward Luttwak, the "Machiavelli of Maryland" seems to consider it a brilliant strategic move that would keep the Shias and Sunni's fighting with each other for the next thousand years.

Blindness too may lie in the eye of the beholder.



* The Machiavelli of Maryland (9 Dec., 2015, The Guardian) -- http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/dec/09/edward-luttwak-machiavelli-of-maryland