The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) works to ensure that poor people live in physical settings that are as safe as possible from the effects of natural disasters; that they are able to cope with disaster events in terms of preparedness and response; and that the settings are conducive to developing economic opportunities and access to social and financial services.
In India, AKAH’s Rural Habitat Development Programme was created to address important issues like reaching out to economically weaker families: providing them with a safe, secure and healthy habitat, and economic opportunities.
When designing a disaster-resilient habitat for beneficiaries, a number of factors are taken into account like using earthquake-resistant design and construction techniques that can prevent or minimise damage due to floods and cyclone; providing access to safe sanitation and water; using local skills, capacities and resources; and including sustainable water management strategies at the planning stage. Through this programme, AKAH in India carries out a number of activities like training masons to promote safe construction practices. These trained masons then carry out reconstruction of seismic-resistant houses under the supervision of technical experts. The lower-income rural families who are unable to afford the cost of construction or repair and retrofitting of their houses are provided access to loans and financial assistance.
Beneficiaries are selected through a rapid diagnosis of the housing settlements that identifies structural vulnerabilities and the current economic conditions of the community at risk. In the recent past, AKAH has provided these services to a number of villages in Gujarat including Jivapar, Ishwariya, Chitravad, Sangodra and Haripur. In Sangodra, Mr Mahendi Mammadali Sutar had heard early on about the programme through his friends in Chitravad. His existing kutcha house was made of simple rubble masonry and had problems of leakage and ventilation, making it unfit to live in. Initially, Mr Mahendi was reluctant for a change. But once he learned of the longer term benefits, he was convinced and a design plan was finalised with his family’s participation and design help from AKAH’s architects.
“Our earlier house was quite old and was often attacked by termites. In the newly constructed house, due to proper plinth protection, there is no fear of termite attacks. The dilapidated house had many cracks and the roof and walls leaked during monsoon, which is now resolved in the new house. There is more light and ventilation as compared to the earlier house. The new house has cross-ventilation throughout the year and in all rooms, making it more comfortable.”