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Local artisans learn to build safer homes

Mar 03, 2010

About 115 carpenters and masons from eastern Bhutan are being trained to build quake resistant homes under the Bhutan recovery and reconstruction plan funded by UNDP. Bhutan lies on a seismically active zone and the recurring aftershocks of last two quakes have put people and authorities on alert.

Bhutan: The recurring aftershocks of the last two major quakes, which hit the east last year, continue to haunt residents.

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The last major tremor, felt two day ago, was all the bigger stimulant for people in eastern region to build stronger and seismic resistant homes.

About 115 carpenters and masons from Trashigang and Trashiyangtse are undergoing a five-day training, which began on March 1, to build safer homes with help from the technical working group of the implementation of Bhutan recovery and reconstruction plan.

Local artisans are being trained in building stronger houses using various techniques of international standards.

They are taught to build stronger walls using local materials.

“Good stone course work is a must for a strong wall,” trainer Tshewang Nidup said. He said local artisans were shown to use features like vertical steel, timber or bamboo bands, depending on availability, at the corners and horizontal bands in the side walls.

Over the five-day training time, participants would have learnt the overall planning of a building, including doors and windows positioning, appropriately anchoring them to the walls in keeping with their sizes, the foundation’s depth, building shapes and wall distribution.

“We’ll also emphasise on quality control,” Tshewang Nidup said.

The trainers themselves are improvising on designs and features by inculcating local artisans’ ideas and experiences.

For instance, the trainers learnt from local artisans of Mongar, who shared their idea of strengthening window anchorage on walls during a training. “We’d taken it into account and shared it with the participants in Trashigang,” Tshewang said.

“If the ideas are good enough, we might include them in our standard codes while revising them.”

The training components were developed after assessing the houses damaged in earthquakes.

SQCA’s chief engineer Tashi Wangchuk added that they had to first explain to the people about Bhutan lying on a seismically active zone to convince them to build stronger homes.

Tashi Wangchuk said they had to clarify that building seismic resistant homes did not necessarily mean that they were safe from quakes.

“Earthquake resistant features are there to buy time for inhabitants to flee to safety,” Tashi Wangchuk said.

Tashi recommended single storeyed houses.

A carpenter from Rongthung, Tenzin, who has been in the profession for the last 12 years, said he was familiar with the features shown to him.

“What they showed us is similar to what I’ve learnt and practised so far,” he said. “Nevertheless, I learnt new ideas and techniques.”

Many participants agreed that poor workmanship caused their houses to collapse. A carpenter from Yalang in Trashiyangtse, Namgang, said that, with many local carpenters and masons leaving the village to work for contractors engaged in bigger projects, they had to depend on a lone carpenter, who had to look after several house constructions.

About 102 artisans underwent similar training in Mongar and 24 in Lhuentse.

Artisans from Pemagatshel and Samdrupjongkhar are next.

Two officials from disaster management department coordinates the UNDP funded training.
Participants receive Nu150 along with free meals and accommodation. They also receive handbooks on the features.

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