For Bihar’s flood victims, houses from Assam

September 21st, 2008 - 12:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, Sep 21 (IANS) As over three million flood victims of Bihar struggle to get back a roof over their head, a group of experts from the Guwahati-based Cane and Bamboo Technology Centre (CBTC) has designed an innovative home for them.A month after the floods, triggered by a course change in the Kosi river, the victims are starting to think of rebuilding their homes, instead of languishing in ill-equipped relief camps.

With support from the North Eastern Council (NEC), CBTC has designed a model bamboo shelter, which is not only affordable and can be constructed in a day but is permanent and eco-friendly as well.

“Time has come to seriously think about the permanent rehabilitation of the flood survivors of Bihar. Thus we have developed a hut for the victims that is simple, economical and affordable, flood-resilient and climate friendly,” Kamesh Salam, director of CBTC, told IANS.

“The standard building materials (like cement, steel, brick and primary timber) and standard housing techniques may not be appropriate now in view of the urgency to rehabilitate them and the high cost involved. Thus the solution lies in making best use of bamboo technology,” he added.

The experts at CBTC and NEC believe that use of green building materials derived from bamboo technology for construction of houses is best as it is derived from renewal source materials, consumes less energy, is non-polluting, cost effective and environmentally sustainable.

The centre, which has designed the shelter, displayed it at the recently concluded Northeast Business Summit here.

The model house, built in an area of 230 square feet, consists of two rooms, a kitchen and a toilet. Each hut will be a pre-fabricated structure made of treated bamboo.

“Each hut can be erected in a day. The cost of each house comes around Rs.30,000. The house will be permanent, with coating of cement or mud on the splitted bamboo panels,” said Salam.

P.P. Shrivastava, member of NEC and the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), said that the idea was not only to provide homes for the poor flood victims but also to train them in building the houses on their own in a short span of time and thus provide to them economic opportunities and livelihood security.

“NEC and CBTC through NDMA have sent the proposal to the Bihar government and are waiting for their response. As soon as we get a green signal from them, we will send a team of experts from CBTC to Bihar to train the flood victims in making the huts,” added Shrivastava.

While CBTC and NEC will provide the expertise to build the huts, infrastructure will be provided by the Bihar government and NDMA.

Experts working in the field of bamboo technology feel bamboo has got immense use but unfortunately that has not been explored fully.

Bamboo processing technology has now developed to such an extent that processed bamboo has become an ideal material for housing construction. Processed bamboo can now replace timber, steel, wood and aluminium, because of its high tensile strength and very good weight to strength ratio.

The strength-weight ratio of bamboo also supports its use as a highly resilient material against forces created by high velocity winds and earthquakes. Above all, bamboo is renewable raw resource from agro-forestry and if properly treated and industrially processed, components made by bamboo can have a reasonable life of 30 to 40 years, said Shrivastava.

CBTC and NEC have also suggested that the Bihar government import bamboo from northeast India, as 28 percent of the total bamboo area of the country is located in the region.

Bamboo, also known as green gold because of its immense use, has been used in the region for building materials, agricultural implements, furniture, musical instruments, food items, handicrafts, large bamboo-based industries (paper pulp, rayon etc.) and packaging to name a few.

Looking at its utility, the National Mission on Bamboo aims at creating 8.6 million jobs and at helping five million families to cross the poverty line.

“In line with the national mission on Bamboo, through our model bamboo hut, we will be encouraging and guiding the unemployed flood victims of Bihar to take up its construction and start earning once again,” said Shrivastava.

According to an official estimate, people from 2,451 villages in 17 districts have been affected by the floods in Bihar. Although the official death toll is 50, locals fear many more bodies will be found once the floodwaters recede.

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