An earthquake of magnitude 7.7 hit Gujarat in Western India on 26th January 2001, devastating the entire state and causing extensive loss of life and property. 13,881 lives were lost, 300,000 buildings collapsed and over 600,000 buildings were severely damaged. At the time the region was already suffering from drought conditions and the aftermath of 2 cyclones in 3 years. 220 out of 276 houses in the village of Patanka were completely destroyed by the earthquake and the rest were severely damaged. The damage to building stock in the region revealed the lack of adequately trained masons in the traditional technology. SEEDS responded to the tragedy immediately with relief and permanent shelter initiatives.250 permanent shelters were built and 10 houses were retrofitted by SEEDS at Patanka in the days following the earthquake.
While initiating the design process the affected community was involved in the design process. This helped to create a sense of ownership amongst the individuals. Since a pre-planned prototype was not imposed on the community, each household was free to develop its own design. They provided most of the material and paid for the skilled labour, they served also as the unskilled labour and played a central role in all stages of the process. In the entire process socio-cultural attributes of the community were preserved – the village redeveloped along the same organic pattern as it had done before.
In order to ensure safer post-quake reconstruction, Innovations and Modifications were introduced into local construction practices. Innovations were made in terms of materials and structural elements in the buildings. “Stonecrete”, consisting of stones embedded in concrete, was used for construction of walls in place of traditional walls constructed using stones and mud mortar. The usage of “Stone crete” material resulted in strong and thinner walls and lower cost of construction. Structural elements, like Reinforced Concrete bands at various levels and corner reinforcements, were also introduced to ensure seismic safety.
The entire initiative helped to develop a safe built environment and promote earthquake safe construction technologies. It also helped to build capacities for safe construction techniques amongst local construction workers.