Friday, November 23, 2012

'Today' : Akshaya's next @ OMR

'Today' is an unusual name for a housing project.  It developers -  Akshaya - chose it,  presumably, on suggestion from a corporate astrologer or creative head of their advt. agency. For the record, the developers say the name was chosen , as it reflects, in every way,  their upcoming project at  Thaiyur, OMR. The housing project, with 2000 plus units, has  'an air of speed and dynamism' that today's age stands for.
The Hindu  carries a 16-page supplement anouncing  Akshaya's  'Today' project, termed  'the people's mini-city on OMR'.  Referring to Today's location, the supplement says the govt. is planning to develop a 187-acre Financial City - housing banks,  insurance companies, and other financial institutions - near Thaiyur.
Elsewhere on OMR TIDCO plans to come up with a Media and Entertainment sector Park spread over 25 acres. And then a sprawling Sports City spread over 1500 acres is in the works  on the  Kelambakkam-Thiruporur stretch.
Today, says Akshaya, would have a courtyard developed around a 65-year old banyan tree on the premises ; and they also have plans for a green patch covered with ornamental trees, shrubs, vines and a lotus pond.
Unlike most other OMR communities Today  would have a visitors' car park within the campus. At  my place, Mantri Synergy, visitors are obliged to leave their vehicles outside the main gate. The Akshaya's supplement makes no mention of car-parking designated for the handicapped.
Speaking  of parking space a general complaint  against  developers is they sell the open area as parking space,  in utter disregard to the court orders. Apartment owners associations have been fighting a losing battle against developers,  basically because the demand for housing keeps rising and even those who are aware of the rights of apartment buyers find themselves helpless in asserting their due.
As a panelist in NDTV Property Show  put it, such is the demand for apartments that developers usually close bookings for apartments  within  days of project announcement. Apartment owners associations are formed years later, during occupancy of completed flats.
Incidentally,  Akshyaya's have announced, what they call, a three-day booking marathon during which flats can be booked at discounted rate, on payment of a booking advance of Rs.2 lakhs.  Call 42008811/24968811.

Monday, November 19, 2012

OMR Greens go Trash-busting at Sai Temple

Members of  OMR Greens, a community initiative by Mantri Synergy apartments residents, went trash-busting at Sai Temple, Kelambakkam, early Sunday morning. With help from Mr S Kumar of Saravana Medicals, some Sai temple employees, and schoolboy Arvind, a group of 12  OMR Green-ers got down to cleaning up the garbage littered in the vicinity of the temple.
Earlier OMR Green members, carrying placards, set out from Mantri Synergy gate on an 'awareness' walk to Sai Temple. This was our idea of attracting public attention to our initiative. We didn't set Muthukkadu on fire, but we could say OMR Greens was being talked about and the  Kelambakkam panchayat president, Mr G Venkatesan,  made a request to OMR Greens that we organise Trash-busting on Kelambakkam main street (near the petrol station) one of these weekends.
At Sai Temple the panchayat chief deployed a tractor trolley, and a couple of tricycles to collect and carry the trash to the designated landfill
Sai Temple head priest Sri Acharya arranged for a few pongai saplings that we planted near the temple to mark the trash-busting - the third since OMR greens was launched in September last. Tne OMR community environment group has earlier carried out Trash-busting,to clear a garbage heap close to Hindustan University and on the main street at Padur.
OMR Greens participants at the Sai Temple event included Pravin, Pandian, Bala, Shine, Santhakumar, Neeraj, Pandey,  P S Sridhar and wife, Gopalan, Viswanath, Vasu, GVK and wife.
See OMR Greens Facebook page for Trash-busting video.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Apt.owners unite to fight developers

The message appears on the bottom of this video image, of  NDTV Profit show telecast on the launch of the Federation of Apartment Owners Associations (FAOA).
Participants included FAOA vice-president, Mr Gautam Gulati; and Sand Legal Service M D, Mr Sai Chandravardhan.
Points that emerged in their discussion:
1) Selling open-space parking lots by developers is a huge scandal;
2) Court orders, even Supreme Court directive, have been ignored by real estate developers;
3) Developers throw to the winds the commitments they make to the authorities while seeking permission to build;
4) Open space parking lots are sold  openly, and blatantly. And developers have been getting away with it;
5) In confronting developers apartment owners associations have not much hope without a) their unity at all India level, b) class-action by a critical mass of apt.owners in such big numbers that courts are driven to action, and c) creation of an effective regulatory body.
6) Uniform regulation on a national level difficult accomplish because real-estate comes under state govt. jurisdiction.
7) Legislation governing real-estate in 8 states is based on the Maharashtra apartment ownership Act of 1963.
Apartment owners associations find themselves on a weak wicket because:
a) Ever increasing demand for housing; and heightened anxiety among apartment owners to take possession, because of inordinate delay in delivery by developers;
b) Developers, in most cases,  get bookings from buyers within days of announcing a new  housing  project,  when not even a single document is ready.
c) Many apt. owners go in for purchase even though they are well aware that developer cannot legally  sell open-space as parking lot.
d) Apartment  buyers act individually  at the time of booking, signing of agreements.
e) Apartment owners association get formed only during occupancy of flats.
As the panelists viewed it, the way to go :
1) Consolidation of apartment owners association at all-India level - FAOA has till date only 15 associations as members.
2) Building database by FAOA for  publicising  the track-record of various developers for the benefit of  intending apartment buyers..
3) A common platform of associations to create awareness among apartment buyers of their rights.
4) Filing class-action litigation..

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Join OMR Greens Walk to Sai Temple

OMR Greens, a Manti Synergy, Padur,  residents initiative, has plans this Sunday (Nov.18)  for Trash-busting in the vicinity of Kelambakkam Sai Temple. Kelambakkam panchayat chief Mr G Venkatesan has offered to join us with the panchayat garbage collection staff.
In a minute-long video for our YouTube channel, recorded this morning the Sai Temple head priest Acharya says the temple people would extend all possible support to our endeavour. Moreover he has offered to plant a few saplings in the temple vicinity in recognition of OMR Greens service activity.
Trash-busting,  we know,  isn't the thing that many of us are really excited about. Those who are not keen on messing up their hands can still help the cause by joining OMR Green-ers in the 20-min. 'Awarness Walk' from Mantri Synergy to Sai Temple on Sunday morning.
Our programme
Sunday, Nov.18, 2012
8.15 a m - Green Awareness Walk (starting from Mantri Synergy main gate.
8.30 - 10.00 a m - Trash-busting
10.05 - 1.15 a m - Tree-planting

Meanwhile Join us for online discussion on OMR Greens Facebook

Monday, November 12, 2012

Getting stuck in lift at a high-rise

Watch this 90 second video before you read.  The wailing sound you hear is a siren from someone stuck in a lift as power went out in our high-rise residential complex. Our lifts - we have 19 at Mantri Synergy - are not fitted with automatic rescue device (ARD).
Whoever gets caught in a lift when power goes off stays stuck in there till power supply is resumed. And it takes anytime from 2 mins to 20 for our diesel generated back-up power to kick in. It took nearly half-hour for  power supply to be restored  last evening (Sunday). This video was taken from our 9th floor flat when we were some 10 minutes into the darkness that covered the entire apartments complex.
At Padur, on OMR, you never can tell when the state electricity board switches off power supply. Unannounced EB power shut-down, frequent as they are, add up to 6 to 8 hours daily.. This is a situation about which none of us were aware when we bought apartments at Mantri Synergy. Developers had assured us of 24/7 power supply through an effective back-up system.

Question: 1) Weren't developers on OMR aware of erratic power supply situation in Padur-Kelambakkam neighbourhood ?
2) Shouldn't they have shared this info. with prospective apartment buyers ?
3) Now that we are faced with fait accompli, aren't  Mantri as well as the other builders in Padur-Kelambakkam neighbourhood socially, morally, if not legally,  responsible  for exploring  possibilities -   such as petitioning the EB authorities,  proposing to govt. and  participating in joint solar/wind energy and renewable energy projects? 

Even when we get EB power supply at Mantri's the voltage is so low that you need to operate DG to keep lifts, water pumping, BSNL phone/broadband network functioning. Domestic Air-conditioners and washing machines wouldn't work under low voltage power supply. It may not make business sense for real estate developers to mention all this to prospective apartment buyers. And those going in for apartments in Padur, Kelambakkam and beyond on OMR would would do well to factor in erraticity of EB power supply. Frequent power cut and voltage erraticity raises the monthly maintenance bill  for apartment owners. At Mantri Synergy we pay Rs.1,500 a month as water and diesel charges.
I don't know about other communities, but at Mantri Synergy the lifts do not have automatic rescue device (ARD). We have 9 blocks, 12 floors in each, and 19 lifts in the complex. A proper and fully functional lift goes with construction of a high-rise building. I wonder if developers cutting corners on this score can be taken to consumer courts.

Didn't know ducks eat sand, stones

It wouldn't have  occurred to me to do Internet search about matters such as  the lifespan and eating habits of ducks,  if I had  not escorted a bunch of  children in our apartment complex  to the Gateway School pets' club. They ask too many questions - these children.  The pet club visit  followed Children's Day tree-planting at Mantri Synergy apartments complex. We had children plant nine saplings - pongai - representing each residential block - A to I.. After which we asked them to name the saplings they planted.

The  children came up with  Aditya, Buddha, Cashmeera, D'Arcey, Ezhile, Freddy, Gautham, Harish and India.  Frankly, I couldn't catch the C- name that Sundeep's  kids gave for their plant.  And I am not sure about the  'D'  plant's  spelling ( Trishna, who named the plant  can tell us). I got stumped by kids, once again, at the pet club ducks enclosure. Watching the ducks Nitya asked how long do they live and what do they eat for breakfast or lunch. Nitya and other children had just come  after watching couple of caged rabbits making a meal of cabbage.

Google search reveals that average lifespan of domestic duck is 10 yrs. And they eat almost anything - small fish, snails, worms, weeds,  algae, insects, seeds and,  at times, even  sand,  gravel and small stones. But for having to respond to such inconvenient questions,  it was fun spening time with children. OMR Greens organized Children's Day programme on Sunday ( Nov.14 being a working day) because we wanted  parents' participation. Our hunch was that  parents have as much fun watching children having fun.Besides, such social programming generated a community chemistry among Mantri Synergy residents.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

OMR Greens invites kids to mini-zoo

The plan is to take children, after Sunday's tree-planting, on a drive to Gateway School mini-zoo. They have a few birds, a couple of rabbits, and a turtle, perhaps. But then we thought it would be fun. The idea came up when a couple of Green-ers met Gateway principal. She readily agreed to invite our children to her mini-zoo; and offered to deploy the staff to take care of us, even though it would be a Sunday.
Our programme is:
Tree-planting - 9 a m
School trip - 10 a m

Children would plant 9 'pongai' saplings, one for each Block, on our front lawns. We could do with some volunteers to drive the children in their cars to Gateway School at Padur. We wouldn't spend more than 30 mins. at min-zoo.

Gateway School, Padur, OMR

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Getting waste-wise

We all know of the process of converting household organic waste into manure. Most of us wouldn't  give it a try,  Why ?
1)  we think we can't spare the space;
2) It's messy, smelly, would attract flies.
3) Can't  find anyone for its up-keep.
4) Lack of consensus, in the case of apartment buildings.
Anusha Parthasarathy's article in The Hindu  citing residents who are using organic converters, says:
-  Not much space is  needed. A small green patch,  or balcony would do.
-  Maintenance costs get reduced if it is a community initiative, says the Bangalore-based 'Daily Dump' founder Poonam Bir Kasturi.
 -  Navneeth Raghavan, Chennai, lives on 4th floor, uses 3-layered terracotta pots - 'Khambas' for composting - leaves them in her balcony. No stink during decomposition and we have a solution to keep away flies, says Navneeth (.9840082607)
- 'Daily Dump' has changed the way Preethi Sukumaran and Sruti Harihara Subramanian think of household waste - everything that comes into the house is looked at,to see if it can be recycled or composted.
- Preethi carries own containers and oil cans to grocery stores - packaged grocer covers are washed, dried and put into the recycling bin.
- Preethi keeps separate kitchen bin for plastic, paper, and other recyclables. Uses stainless steel water bottles, instead of plastic ones.
- Rinse-water from hand-washed clothes is used  to mop floors and clean toilets.
- Water used to wash vegetables or rice is recycled for plants.
- Sruti sustains her terrace garden ...with Khamba compost....'Throw organic waste into it. You get microbes and additives to mix in'. Sruti, who runs Ashvita Bistro, Alwarpet, uses a Khamba there as well, and retails the compost sets.
- Singapore-based blogger Bhavani Prakash  has written an e-book called  '50 Ways to Make Your Home Eco-Friendly'
OMR Greens can consider setting up a pilot khamba compost unit - with contributions from a few volunteer households in gated communities. If apartment owners association designates a small patch for trial plant, OMR Greens, can take the idea forward.
Related links:
Eco-soap, detergents retail  KryaBoxtree
Recycler Kuppathotti

Friday, November 2, 2012

Next Trash-busting, at Sai Temple, OMR

Sai Temple at Kelambakkam is probably the most well-maintained place of worship in our OMR neighbourhood.  We  see devotees helping the  maintenance staff in keeping the temple neat and clean. In the tradition of karsewa  performed by Sikhs visiting gurudwara,  I have observed Sai devotees visiting Kelambakkam devoting their time to cleaning the temple premises as part of their worship.

Outside is another story. Adjacent to the temple is a vacant plot that is being used as garbage dump by residents in the vicinity. I took this video to be able to share  with members of OMR Greens. And to suggest we take up the next trash-busting around Sai Temple. We have since decided the date - Sunday, Nov.18. The temple management has extended their support.

We plan to mobilize public awareness and support for our awareness programme,  among residents, Hindustan University  students and faculty members who partner with OMR Greens, our well-wishers in Kelambakkam - Saravana Medicals, and Murugesan of the firewood depot -  and Kelambakkam panchayat people. We also count on participation of Sai devotees.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Sidharth/Nikhil stand up to Nilam's fury

Team Jayaram of Mantri Synergy gardening staff fixing bamboo crutches to secure Nikhil from battering wind that preceded Nilam, the storm that hit Chennai on Oct.31, 2012.

 Sidharth and Nikhil, the neems in our Seniors Area  are among the few plants that withstood Nilam's fury, as the storm ravaged its way through OMR at Chennai.   At our Mantri Synergy apartment complex  we give a name to every tree planted by residents under our community tree-planting programme.
The cyclone warning (that Nilam would hit the coast, Wednesday evening) had us worried. And on my request an overworked Jayaram and three others on  Mantri's gardening staff attended, on a priority,  to the neems that were being battered in howling wind,  that started blowing several hours before the storm crossed Mamallapuram coast

Such was the scene on Wednesday afternoon when we managed to secure the neems against anticipated storm later in the evening. We we pleasantly surprised to find our neems  standing their ground through the storm while the the trees all around them were battered, bruised and beaten to the ground. 

This was the scene and  status of Nikhil and Sidharth the morning after the storm Nilam.

How about Children's Day parade at Mantri's ?

I wish to share, notably, with parents of young ones, some video clips on a Halloween parade of school kids. They give us an idea of the fun we could have, organising a fancy dress parade in our residential complex to celebrate Children's Day.  As of now, the programme is to have Mantri Synergy children plant 9 saplings, one representing each block of flats, on Sunday Nov.11. Children's Day (Nov.14) happens to be a working day.

The Halloween video clips reveal, if anything, that at any children's function, it is parents who get more excited, and, possibly,  have more fun, than the kids. Besides, such events provide each parent an opportunity for photographing children in a social setting.  One other thing I noticed as I viewed the video clips, some children don't wish to be patted or pampered in public by parents, particularly  when they are in company of peers or classmates. I see Sidharth, in green head-gear, blue t-shirt,  walking by (Video 2) without so much as  saying 'Hi' to his dad hailing him.