Shaping Resilient Emergency Shelter Housing in Assam

The Need

Floods in Assam are an annual occurrence during the monsoon season in the state of Assam. The state gets inundated with the waters from Brahmaputra River leading to a loss of lives, homes, crops and livestock. With encroachment of riverbanks, more and more people are living close to the river. Townships have sprung up across Assam without proper flood-risk management. Rampant deforestation and cutting of hills have only worsened the situation.

Tribal communities are the worst affected as they are amongst the most marginalised and do not have access to shield themselves from the ravages of the annual floods in the region. Past emergencies have shown that this is the period when the most vulnerable (and remote) families fall through the cracks. For when the disaster is no longer in the news, those on the margins are often left to recover on their own.

SEEDS has shortlisted Golaghat district in the upper Assam region due to the key reason of it being neglected over the years though being devastated by floods every year. Another reason for providing intervention in form of community shelter in the Golaghat district is to reach out to the marginalised Mising tribal community.

How We Helped

A flood resilient community shelter with support from PwC was built at Golaghat District in the state of Assam in Singimari Village under Disoi Gram Panchayat. Known as Nikori Miri Vikas Kendra, the community shelter at Golaghat district in an area which is largely inhabited by the Mising community, SEEDS sought to help by facilitating community building by using the shelter as a community centre for various activities, building resilience through livelihood interventions and reduction in loss of lives due to floods.

The shelter comprises the following –raised toilet with a septic tank and bathing units, kitchen, raised hand pumps, hand wash stations, overhead water storage tank, a ramp at the entrance to make the shelter universally accessible, separate dormitories and sanitation units have been provided for men and women to ensure safety and privacy. All the semi-open spaces are also secured with a bamboo railing to provide fall protection. The location, design and materials were decided through community consensus and the community was involved in the construction process. The shelter is being managed and maintained by the Panchayat or local body.

The design of the shelter is inspired from the vernacular architectural typology of stilt buildings in the region to cope with the recurrent floods. Since the region also falls under the highest seismic zone of India, the structural design features such as cross-bracings and light-weight building elements are considered. Use of locally available resources such as structural bamboo has been maximised and reinforced cement concrete is proposed only up to stilt level, with an aim of creating a model of contemporary-vernacular resilient design.

Leaving a mark

The rescue shelter is built to be a multi-purpose community space that will be operational not just during emergencies but during peace time as well. The shelter is expansive enough to make it functionally usable by the community and it can be used as a weaving or training centre for local women to support their livelihood.

The space above the stilts can be used as a day-care centre or a creche; training centre for risk awareness, preparedness and emergency response; community hall. The shelter can also be used as a means to stock essential material by the community to be used during the flood season. This will enable the community to survive and be independent during the period of refuge. The final use of the shelter is left to be defined by the community as per their needs.

360 degree view of the Nikori Miri Vikas Kendra