Walls draped in lush vertical gardens and air filtered through purifiers insulate diners at a swanky New Delhi food court from the choking haze outside in one of the most polluted places on earth.
But these eco-eateries, offering cleaner air as well as modern menus to the well-heeled are beyond reach for the poor, who have little means of escaping the deadly smog which coats the city for much of the year.
Air pollution kills more than one million Indians every year, according to a study by Lancet Planetary Health, and Delhi is ranked one of the most toxic urban centres to live, regularly exceeding World Health Organisation (WHO) limits.
But for Ramavtar Singh there is no escape: like many of the city’s poorest, he eats, sleeps, and works outside.
“I work for six to eight hours every day and my children eat and sleep outside most times of the year,” the father of five tells AFP at a roadside food stall, gulping down a 50-cent dish of rice and lentils.
Singh earns a living by cycling passengers and cargo around Delhi on his rickshaw, a strenuous activity that means he’s inhaling dangerous concentrations of tiny pollutants deep into his lungs.
At best, he can wrap a rag over his mouth on smoggy days, a low-cost approach taken by labourers and rickshaw drivers that does little to prevent the most dangerous particles entering the bloodstream.
Delhi’s smog peaks from October to February, routinely exceeding WHO recommendations for PM2.5 — tiny and harmful airborne particles — and some days registers levels more than 20 times safe limits.
Experts warn the long term health consequences of living enveloped in pollution are disastrous, often causing chronic sickness and in some cases early death.
A quick oxygen shot
Across town, Abhimanyu Mawatwal is settling down for lunch at a food court in Worldmark Aerocity, a grand commercial centre boasting purified air.
A meal here could cost twice Singh’s monthly salary, but it is a price Mawatwal is willing to pay because outside the smog is at hazardous levels.
“I love to come here for my meals. It is like getting a quick oxygen shot,” the office worker says, surrounded by creeper vines and a faux stream as he breathed lungfuls of filtered air circulating through expensive filters.
“We need to bring greenery to concrete jungles and create places where everybody can come for a breath of fresh air,” insists S. K. Sayal, CEO of Bharti Realty which owns Worldmark Aerocity.
Delhi’s affluent, who are often better informed about the dangers of pollution, increasingly expect the same safety measures they have in place at home, to be available when they are out.
High-end eateries, bars and cinemas are tapping into that demand — installing electronic air purifiers and creating dedicated areas of rich vegetation to help filter airborne toxins.
But for Singh, and the one in five Indians living on less than $2 a day, visiting such places is nothing more than a fantasy.
“What will I do if I spend all the money on one meal? How will I feed my family?” said the rickshaw cyclist, who earns about 1,200 rupees ($17) a month.
He cannot dream of buying the foreign-made air purifiers to protect his family at home — machines favoured by Delhi’s elite, expat communities and office workers — that easily cost Singh’s annual wage.
“The rich and the poor have to breathe the same poisonous air. But the poor are more exposed to pollution,” explains Sunil Dahiya, a campaigner for Greenpeace India.
He adds: “Most of the time, they don’t even know the effects the toxic air is having on their health. Poor communities are definitely at the losing end.”
Absa Gold ETF Hits all-time High Market Turnover at NSE –
Latest data from the Nairobi Securities Exchange reveals that the New Gold ETF achieved an all-time high turnover of Ksh66 million on Monday 30 March. The overall turnover in the day was Ksh 804 million with the Gold ETF contributing 8.15%.
The NewGold issuer (RF) Ltd, a subsidiary of South Africa’s ABSA, became the first ETF issued in East Africa in 2017.
ETFs are a type of listed open-ended index or unit instrument bought or sold on a securities exchange. The index or unit may be composed of ordinary stocks, bonds, commodities, futures or a combination of real assets with the objective of allowing for exposure to a portfolio of securities, assets or indices whose price movement is in tandem with the price movement of the constituent underlying securities or commodities. An ETF can be a domestic or offshore product.
Landlords stare at massive dip in rentals incomes : The Standard
Joe sells bootleg movies out of a stall on a building along Moi Avenue. Before the coronavirus pandemic hit the country, when Kenyans walked around without caution, he would easily sell about 200 movies, making enough cash to pay rent for the stall.
He could easily take care of his livelihood and even send something back home.
As the reality of Covid-19 settles and subsequent measures such as the government advisory on social distance and a curfew, he is lucky if he can sell 20 movies.
Previously, he used to close shop at 9pm but today, his hours have been disrupted following the curfew. He closes early, at 3pm to get a matatu back home on time.
He says making rent this coming few months will be hard, almost certain that he will default on his April rent. His landlord hasn’t communicated anything despite noting most businesses in the building have shut down.
Joe says the landlord should brace himself for massive defaults. “Honestly I can’t make the rent. This means it will be rolled over and I’ll be working to pay debts,” he said, adding that paying taxes to Nairobi County government will also be a tall order.
While Joe’s landlord appears to bury his head in the sand, delayed rent payment is something that he has to confront in the coming weeks.
It remains a tough period for landlords in the country as coronavirus scare continues to wreak havoc on incomes, hence eroding tenants’ ability to pay rent. So far, more than 60 people have been confirmed to have the virus.
So tough is the going for homeowners that several landlords’ associations in the country estimate that by June, the strain on rental yields will have hit between 60 and 70 per cent for the low-cost rents and between 10-30 per cent for the middle-income earners.
This as the impact of unpaid leaves or the slowdown in business for the self-employed hits home.
Different firms across sectors last month sent employees home, with the lucky ones being on paid leave. But for many who are engaged on a casual basis, this might mean several months of unemployment.
While sectors such as tourism, aviation and horticulture stand out as among the most affected, the impact of Covid-19 cuts across all sectors.
The overall impact will be high default rates on rental payments. This will further hurt property owners, many of them already living on the edge, going by a large number of defaults on loans advanced to property owners as well as the number of houses being put on auction.
Landlords who spoke to Home&Away admitted that they have now resigned to fate as they join the nation in hoping for recovery from the crisis – that a quick reprieve visits the country sooner.
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The unique challenge in meeting rental obligations in some areas is cited to be premised in the barmaids and commercial sex workers legion that has been struck hard by bar closures and the national curfew – effectively locking them out of income.
According to Urban Tenants Association of Kenya Secretary General Ephraim Murigo, landlords will have to face reality that “it is not business as usual”. “The going is tough and as everyone is being called upon to belt up, landlords are not exempted,” he noted.
He says the strife on rental yields is premised on the closure of most economic avenues that earn tenants some income. The closure of major businesses and firms, he noted, has driven many workers into temporary poverty.
“It is in light of this that we as an association anticipate that the low-end housing units might suffer as high as 70 per cent rental defaults by May if the situation does not subside, with the mid-level rental segment suffering up to 30 per cent default by the same period,” Murigo preempts.
He says most jua kali sector work stations have been closed, with many low-cadre jobs in industries locked. Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have also been starved off workforce and markets.
“When this happens, both national and county gross produce suffers and the prevailing economic environment is that of poverty. At the social front, what Covid-19 scare has induced is panic. All these are serious economic forces that erode both investments and returns,” Murigo said.
He urged all landlords to “exercise patience, humaneness and be willing to make concessions that offer tenants a reprieve”.
Maragua MP Mary Wa Maua urged landlords to give tenants rental rebates.
“I propose that all tenants who can meet their rental obligations to pay up. Those who have genuinely suffered economic setbacks be given the rebates in form of rental reductions or total waivers for the period the country will remain under siege by this global scourge,” she says.
Wa Maua promised to moot a National Crisis Relations Bill-19 that provides legal guidelines on how the economic front should relate with the social front in times of a crisis. She says the proposals should compel all multinationals in the country to channel 100 per cent of their social corporate responsibility budgets to the crisis.
She said the proposed bill could require that all landlords who are subjected to land rate taxes be given a 100 per cent waiver to cushion them on rental strains while basic amenities like water, electricity and internet bills for their buildings be zero-rated.
Senate Majority Deputy Chief Whip Irungu Kang’ata says most Murang’a born landlords have since admitted that the going is tough and will offer a reprieve to their tenants.
“As Murang’a Senator who also is aware of the big share my native investors in major towns real estate enjoy, it is good news that so far, there are many who have since placed notices that they have halved or waived rents for the period running from March to May,” he said.
He urged the State to subsidise the real estate sector so that landlords can reciprocate by also extending rental subsidies to tenants in times of crisis.
Council of Governors Deputy Chair Mwangi Wa Iria told landlords at county levels to be lenient to their tenants.
“We as county governments will be interested parties in how relations between landlords and tenants play out during this difficult period. We will be interested to know what will be happening in all arbitration sittings involving rental defaulters. We must safeguard the vulnerable in such times of distress,” he said.
According to Nairobi Regional Coordinator Wilson Njenga, rental panic has been caused by the confirmation of Covid-19 in Nairobi, increasing panic among households.
Limited economic activities and restricted movements have also seen many urban families flock to villages where economic pressures are less, given low rental and dietary budgets.
“As a result, many families have either abandoned their rental homes and retreated to the countryside to get bigger space necessary in combating this scourge as well as give themselves economic reprieve,” he says.
Rift Valley Regional Coordinator George Natembeya told Home&Away that Kenyans are also contributing to rental flight owing to their tendencies to stigmatise others in a humanitarian crisis.
Both administrators called upon landlords to be sensitive to families facing restricted earning avenues and constrained budgets.
Mr Natembeya urged landlords to extend tenancy arbitration on rent defaulters to eight months instead of the usual three.
Last week, it emerged that more than 120,000 flower farm workers were last month sent home on paid leave owing to lack of market for flowers. The situation could change into a long unpaid leave if the situation remains.
Dozens of hotels have also suspended operations as occupancy levels plunge, leaving their staff idle. Some have indicated that it will be months before they reopen as it will take time to get bookings even after the world has been able to contain Covid-19.
And it is not just the tourist hotels but also the ordinary eateries that cannot sustain operations because of reduced human traffic.
With little travel locally and a total ban on flights to and from Kenya, the aviation industry is also bleeding.
The impact that coronavirus will have on the economy this year comes after 2019 that was also difficult for the economy and numerous companies saw their profit fall.
Additional reporting by Wainaina Wambu and Macharia Kamau
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Trade unionist calls For 3-month Rent Exemption for Tenants
NAIROBI, Kenya April 2 – Central Organization Trade Union (COTU) Secretary General, Francis Atwoli has urged landlords to exempt Kenyans from paying rent for the next three months as the country battles COVID-19 pandemic which has already scuttled numerous businesses.
Atwoli said the Union will appeal to the Government to ensure rental issues for the low income and lower-middle-income earners are considered for the next three months.
“I would appeal to employers,entrepreneurs and landlords to heed to our call that for the coming three months, let them not ask rents from poor Kenyans who have mostly been sent on unpaid leaves,” he told Citizen Television.
He said this will be the only way for them to show solidarity in the wake of the pandemic which has so far infected 81 people in Kenya and seen more than 1,000 placed under quarantine.
Atwoli’s statement echoes that of the Landlords and Tenants Association of Kenya who Wednesday called for a three-month rent waiver for tenants.
“There should be a waiver for rent for the month of April, May, and June so that the common citizen can actually work on putting food on the table.”
The tenants-lobby said the government should assist landlords who are servicing loans to get a six-month moratorium from commercial banks.
“The government should come up with a compensation package for the landlords. We know very well that most landlords depend on the rents they receive to service their loans. We are asking the government to institute the moratorium so that they can have that ample time to put food on their tables now that they are not going to get that income for the months of April, May, and June,” the association posed in a statement.
In his interview, Atwoli further opposed calls for a total lockdown saying it would affect Kenyans who rely on daily wages.
“I do not fully support a lockdown, with our fragile economy, many people cannot survive within it. But if need be, we can do it for not more than 14 days or seven days and by that time we should be testing people,” he added.
He also wants the Government to support civil societies so that they provide relief food for those who are unable to earn during this period as well as those living in abject poverty in order to avert any death due to hunger.
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