Habitat Observatory

    Low-cost Disaster-Resistant Housing in Bangladesh - 28-6-14
  Floods are an annual part of life in most of Bangladesh. Most of the country is low-lying hence many fields and homes are flooded following monsoon rains. People living on the Charlands – the sand banks lying in the rivers, are especially vulnerable. These floods wash away lands, houses and their vital assets. Wealthier people use materials like corrugated iron sheets, cement pillars and walls which do not get damaged by flooding. However, people who are less well-off have to manage with thatch and bamboo. When the monsoon season is over families painstakingly rebuild their house, doing the best they can, knowing that their hard work will be swept away once again by the next unforgiving monsoons.

To improve the resilience of such vulnerable communities, Practical Action- Bangladesh designed a low cost flood resistant house. This design was piloted in 24 houses of four villages in Bangladesh.  Practical Action aimed to improve on the approaches taken by people while keeping the cost of the houses low.

The low cost flood resistant houses incorporated features like:

  • All the houses are constructed on raised land so water cannot reach the plinth in normal floods.
  • An improved attic was included that could be used as living and storage space during times of floods
  • Jute panels are used for resilient walls that cost very little yet are quick and easy to replace.
  • Treated bamboo poles on concrete bases are strengthened with metal tie rods to hold the wall firm and safe.
  • Bracings and fastenings bind the walls firmly to the house ‘skeleton’ through a network of holes and notches – locally called a ‘clam system’ – and the whole building can stay standing through the strongest of winds and rain. Nuts and bolts, screws, ties and nails are required.
  • Bamboo poles are treated to make them more resilient to flooding and last longer.
  • Reinforced concrete posts with footings were introduced to strengthen the structure. Short reinforced concrete stumps for the treated bamboo posts make the structure more resilient to the water
  • Corrugated Galvanized Iron Sheets as roofing material help to reduce maintenance costs and are more resistant to rain.
  • Windows were included in the houses for ventilation and improving the general housing conditions and speeds the process of drying out after flooding.
  • Water-thirsty plants are set around the house, such as bamboo, banana, hogla that ‘drink up’ flood water and hold onto the soil, helping the whole homestead stay intact

The houses were designed in collaboration with the community and experts brought in by Practical Action, Bangladesh. Several workshops were held before the design was finalized. After the finalization housing design it was shared with the whole community. Local carpenters, masons and few of the community members were trained in constructing low cost flood resistant house. Community and Practical Action Bangladesh emerged with a design that draws on local know-how, local materials that readily available and highly cost effective to ensure that the floods come and go, the house will stay standing. 

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    Water ATMs: Providing Access to Safe Drinking Water to TheLast Mile 14.06.2014
  In India, 103.8 million people lack access to safe drinking water and are vulnerable to waterborne diseases, including diarrhea, the leading cause of illness and death. According to the World Bank estimates, 21% of communicable diseases in India are related to unsafe water, with around 37.7 million Indians being affected by waterborne diseases annually.

Providing safe, reliable, piped water to every household is an essential goal for all countries and civic bodies in charge of water. Sarvajal, an Indian social enterprise, offers an alternative through hub-and-spoke model. Instead of transporting water to communities from external sources, in Sarvajal, they sell an integrated water purification service which purifies and monitors quality of water sources for consumption, creating local jobs and income in the process.

Sarvajal developed a technology-enabled franchising model. This model, not only facilitates the delivery of clean water to an expanding number of households, but also generates employment and income-earning opportunities for people in the communities it serves. Uptake of Sarvajal’s low-cost water delivery solution has been rapid.

Water ATM is a low-cost, solar-powered, self-contained water vending machine that stores clean water and can be re-filled by the nearest franchisee. The water purification system installed within the ATM removes 99.9 percent of germs and ensures that minerals, such as fluoride which can be harmful in excess, fall within recommended levels.Despite people not being accustomed to pay for water, the advantage of obtaining clean water for US$0.005 (0.30 INR) is alluring enough for people to pay for safe drinking water.

To ensure that people have sustainable access to safe drinking water, Sarvajal uses Global System for Mobile communications. It helps them track all the machines from a remote location. The integrated cloud based system Soochakmonitors the status of Water ATMs - service, maintenance and supply chain operators. This technology informs on mobile phone in case there is damage in any machine and stops the operations of water ATMs. Every machine is also checked properly once a month.

Presently Sarvajal serves 100,000 people daily in over 6 states and has created 400+ jobs that encourage safe water practices in local communities. Thesocial enterprise plans to deliver clean water to 1 million households of rural and urban India.

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