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Temporary Shelters for the Disaster Hit

Provision of temporary shelters after earthquakes is a neglected aspect of disaster response in India. Temporary shelters are needed by the homeless since it takes at least a year to build a new house after a disaster. Usually the construction period is longer because of administrative procedures. Providing secure temporary shelters after major disasters is therefore an essential need. PSI has innovated several designs in response to the local environment after different disasters.
In Latur, PSI had seen the district administration build tin sheds to house 8250 families in 170 sq ft. cubicles, in less than three weeks. Provision of safe drinking water and electricity sustained the beneficiary families over a period of a few years while their permanent homes were being built. PSI replicated this lesson in Garhwal after the - Chamoli earthquake in 1999. In collaboration with Centre for Development Initiatives (CDI), a local VO, PSI helped build temporary shelters for 112 families in 60 days. Each unit was 170 sq ft in area. CGI sheets were bolted into wooden poles. Each family contributed unskilled labour. The average cost of construction came to Rs.9,500 per unit including the cost of a rainwater harvesting system.
Each family signed an agreement to dismantle the unit after its permanent house was built. The used materials were to be maintained as a resource for use by CDI after future calamities. In the same period, PSI also assisted six other organizations in Garhwal to build another 550 units. The entire programme was funded by CAPART. Later, the State government also appreciated the effort and constructed hundreds of pre-fabricated community shelters.
After the Gujarat earthquake in 2001, PSI’s engineers constructed a few prototype CGI sheet shelters. But the local people rejected, them as unsuited to the hot desert climate. With the help of a local small industrialist, PSI's team constructed a new model using a steel-pipe frame, with the walls and roof made of clay (Morbi) tiles, bracings and roof reinforcement for earthquake and cyclone safety and a rainwater harvesting system The units were well suited to the local environment, very solidly constructed, affordable and could be built within three days. The cost of a unit of 200 sq ft floor area was Rs.11,000. The beneficiary families provided upto Rs.3,000 in the form of voluntary labour. Before the arrival of the monsoons, 575 units were built. In all 710 shelters were built and another 90 families were given just the steel frame.
Tsunami waves struck the Tamil Nadu coast on December 26, 2004 killing 7814 persons m Tamil Nadu. It was estimated that more than 30,000 dwel1ings were destroyed in Nagapattmam district alone. The TN Government responded immediately by setting up relief camps and providing safe drinking water and food. The government also built temporary shelters using bamboo/casurina frames with asphalt sheet roofs and walls. But most of these shelters were damaged by mid-April 2005 after heavy rains in the region. Their roofs started to leak.
In response to a request from the Pradhan of Poompuhar village, PSI began an improvement drive. The asphalt sheet roofs and walls were removed and the frames were strengthened with diagonal braces.
Burlap sheets coated with cement slurry were used for the roof and walls. In all, 125 structures were reconstructed along with one community shed. Villagers liked the new shelters. They felt that they were cooler in the summer than the previous shelters. Many house owners quickly decorated the interiors. Impressed by the effectiveness of the technology and the quality of the work, the District Collector of Nagapattinam requested PSI to undertake improvement of temporary shelters in other villages also.

What Others Say

"For us PSI is like God. In our darkest hour, it gave us a roof over our heads."
Pradhan Kansili Gram Panchayat, Rudraprag

"I came across the important works done by the People's Science Institute on the temporary shelters in Poompuhar area… .. It would be wonderful if People's Science Institute works in other temporary shelters needing improvement with the model developed by them in Nagapattinam district."
Dr J. Radhakrishnan, District Collector, Nagapattinam district

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Developed by: People's Science Institute, Dehra Doon, Uttarakhand, India