Naples, Italy, 2 October 2006 - Princess Zahra Aga Khan accepted a World Habitat Award today on behalf of the Aga Khan Planning and Building Service (AKPBS). AKPBS was cited for its efforts to improve housing conditions in Pakistan through its Building and Construction Improvement Programme (BACIP).
The World Habitat Awards are presented each year by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) on World Habitat Day, which will be held this year in Naples on 2 October. Projects nominated for the award must demonstrate practical, innovative and sustainable solutions to current housing issues faced by countries of the South and North. These solutions must be replicable in a variety of environments.
AKPBS has developed over 60 low-cost, seismic-resistant, energy- and resource-efficient housing construction methods and standards. These range from smoke-free stoves and screened kitchen cabinets for storing food to water heaters and ventilation systems.
Many of these products and low-cost technologies are designed to address the prevailing housing conditions in poor areas of the developing world. These include rooms that are dark, damp, dusty, poorly constructed and susceptible to earthquake damage. They often lack proper ventilation for wood fires, which then leads to acute respiratory disease, pneumonia and eye conditions. The excessive use of wood for cooking, heating and construction also results in high levels of deforestation and a loss of biodiversity. The complex problem is made more difficult by the general lack of construction skills and limited natural resources.
The objectives of the Aga Khan Planning and Building Service have been inspired by His Highness the Aga Khan’s philosophy that “a proper home can provide the bridge across that terrible gulf between poverty and a better future”. The BACIP products and techniques are therefore designed to bring about incremental improvements in housing that eventually combine to have a significant impact on individual health and the overall quality of life.
The Programme has created a self-sustaining industry in low-cost home improvement. Community members identify the need for new products, provide feedback on existing products, raise awareness of problems such as respiratory illnesses caused by smoke from cooking fires, market the products and manage the programme. The products are built and sold by local entrepreneurs. Since 1997, AKPBS has trained over 200 entrepreneurs and artisans, who have in turn sold over 14,000 house improvement products. The Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance, a sister agency, now offers small loans to help poor people finance housing improvements. BACIP has been replicated in both high mountain zones and coastal plains.
The Aga Khan Planning and Building Service was established in 1980 as an agency of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). The agency’s mandate is to plan and implement infrastructure and technology-related development initiatives to improve the built environment and to enhance living conditions for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged populations. It does this by providing material, technical assistance and applied research, as well as planning and construction management services for communities in both rural and urban areas.
In March this year, the Aga Khan Planning and Building Service received the US $1 million Alcan Prize for Sustainability for its efforts to improve housing conditions as well as water and sanitation facilities in Pakistan.
Established in 1985 by the Building and Social Housing Foundation (BSHF) as part of its contribution to the United Nations International Year of Shelter for the Homeless, the World Habitat Awards focuses attention on the importance of shelter in people’s lives. Two awards are given annually to projects that provide practical and innovative solutions to current housing needs and problems. Every year a prize of UK £10,000 is presented to each of the two winners at the annual United Nations global celebration of World Habitat Day.
For more information, please contact: Aga Khan Planning and Building Service, Pakistan
Mr. Asif Merchant, Chief Executive Officer
310-31, 3rd Floor, Kassam Court, BC-9, Block S
Clifton, Karachi-75600 Pakistan
Tel: + 92 21 536 1802
Fax: + 92 21 536 1807
Notes: Princess Zahra is the Head of the Social Welfare Department (SWD) located within the Secretariat of the Aga Khan in France. She has policy and management responsibility for the health, education, and planning and building services of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). She also has a key role in policy and strategy matters relating to the other social development institutions of the Network. These include the programmatic activities of the Aga Khan Foundation in the fifteen countries in which it operates, and new developments at the Aga Khan University.
Aga Khan Planning and Building Service, Pakistan, which is non-profit and non-denominational, has been working to improve the built environment in Pakistan since 1980. Its areas of focus include housing design and construction, institutional construction management, village planning, natural hazard mitigation, water supply and sanitation, and improved indoor living conditions for the most disadvantaged members of society. AKPBS, P achieves its goals by providing material and technical expertise and training to rural and urban areas. Currently, AKPBS, P is focusing on developing technology related to earthquake-resistant buildings, solar energy use, thermal efficiency, village planning, and other quality-of-life issues.
The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) was founded by His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the Ismaili Muslims. It is a group of private, non-denominational development agencies working to empower communities and individuals to improve living conditions and opportunities, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East. The Network’s nine development agencies focus on social, cultural and economic development for all citizens, regardless of faith, origin or gender.