On November 7, the secretariat of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Bonn, Germany, declared Patanka the winner of the 2013 Momentum of Change Lighthouse Award. Patanka, a Delhi-based social business enterprise of non-governmental organisation (NGO) SEEDS, was one of the 17 contenders of the 250 entries that were screened.
The enterprise won the award for a house they built in a flood-prone area of Gorakhpur, one of the fastest growing urban centres in Uttar Pradesh (UP), in collaboration with Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG) under the Rockefeller Foundation supported Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN) Programme.
Located in the Terai belt of eastern UP, Gorakhpur’s southern, western and central areas face severe water logging due to the uncertain rainfall and reduced capacity of Rapti river to hold water due to excessive silting. The flagship model was built in the city’s Mahewa ward that is waterlogged for almost nine months a year and has a population of 12,000 people, who belong to a low income group and are discriminated against as they belong to the dalit community.
The flood-resistant brick house was built by Patanka with active participation and inputs from members of the community at the cost of $2,500, which is one third of the normal cost to build a brick house. The design uses construction material that is sourced locally to reduce the cost of transportation and uses 54 per cent less cement and 18 per cent fewer bricks than an average brick home.
The house, set on a two-foot-high base, has been designed to resist earthquakes and to promote airflow, since the temperatures during summers go up to 40 degree Celsius in the region.
To ensure that all members of the community benefit from the design, Patanka representatives held consultations, workshops and training in Mahewa. In addition, the architects have also released a manual that will allow residents to build the homes themselves.
Although many think that urbanisation represents an improved quality of life the truth is that it does not necessarily uplift the quality of life of all families and thousands poor families being rapidly absorbed into urban slums are glaring examples of that. Small and medium towns are growing faster than authorities are able to provide for. The urban areas are growing rapidly, with about 100 families added to an average city each day, and more and more people with little resources — no land, no money, no social networks to depend on — are living in high risk areas (steep slopes, riverbeds, too close to the sea, low-lying areas).
“In such cases, small and appropriate solutions are the way ahead. Solutions that can be easily and infinitely replicated and scaled using local resources. Solutions that use less energy, have small carbon footprint, use safe technologies and are low on embodied and operational energy and skills,” said Sumeet Agarwal, an architect with Patanka.
“This project was selected because it has the potential to be easily replicated in other parts of the world,” Agarwal added.
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