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Post earthquake, village learns to build safer homes

Sep 14, 2009

Last week’s Lok Awaas Yatra, a journey to experience sustainable habitat initiatives across rural India, visited Malumbra village in western Indian state of Maharshtra. Ravaged by an earthquake in 1993, the local communities have constructed houses keeping in mind needs for safety and sanitation.

Latur, Maharashtra: “I forced my parents to build a toilet at home and told them that it was my first priority. And then come school, books, clothes and toys. It was difficult to convince them. But later they agreed. Now we have a toilet of our own,” says Puja, a 10-year-old girl who lives in Malumbra village of Latur district in Maharashtra.

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She shared her story with the participants of the Marathwada trail of the Lok Awaas Yatra.

The yatra is being organised by Development Alternatives and basin - South Asia to explore new models of eco-habitat development in large tracts of rural India and promote best practice initiatives of village communities, panchayats, government departments and NGOs for the benefit of rural habitat practitioners.

The first regional Yatra in the series of five was held from September 8-12, 2009 in the central region of India covering Bundelkhand, Vidharba and Marathwada.

Covering the Marathwada region, the Lok Awaas team visited Malumbra situated in Ausa taluka of Latur district. A relocated village, Malumbra was destroyed during a major earthquake in 1993. Ninety percent of the houses were completely damaged.

While the rehabilitation work was in progress, people did not construct toilets with the housing unit. Today, majority of them defecate in open.

A radio programme on importance of toilet and hygiene and how these could be constructed with minimum cost using alternate technologies, motivated Puja to convince her parents to build a toilet at their home. She proudly says, “This is my toilet!”

Reconstruction initiatives

Malumbra is a good example of participatory housing reconstruction work. With the support of Sahyog Nirmitee, a local NGO, community members took the initiative to rebuild their village.

They decided to relocate themselves from the existing village to a new site. With the help of initial grant from the government, land was purchased. Additional financial support was mobilised through PLAN International. However, it was found that, the support was insufficient to build a house planned by the community. Hence it was decided to reuse the existing building material and contribute labour to manage the funding gap.

Site planning and house designing were done in a participatory manner, incorporating the existing and emerging needs of the people. Seismic safety was considered as an important consideration for design and construction.

The new settlements were to have wider roads for disaster evacuation. For construction of houses, heavy materials like stone were used to sill level, light materials like bricks for walls, and tin sheets for roof were used in upper part of the building to ensure safety of individuals at the time of earthquakes.

For more information on the yatra, click here.

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