In the first week of September 2014, the state of Jammu and Kashmir, India, experienced the worst flood that it had seen in 60 years. The incessant rain gave rise to a swelling Jhelum river and its tributaries; submerging houses and leaving people stranded on rooftops. In some places, the water rose to over 12 feet. More than 10,000,000 people were affected and over 100,000 houses suffered damage across 19 districts.
How we helped
Immediate response – shelter kits and temporary learning centres
Pulwama and Poonch were two of the worst affected districts. It was here that we began relief efforts within two weeks of the disaster.
Working across 74 villages, 314 of the of the most vulnerable families were identified. They were provided with relief kits based on needs emerging from the community. This included a shelter kit with tents and bedding; kitchen essentials; and a hygiene kit.
Continuing education was another priority. 23 temporary learning centres were set up with tents, temporary toilets, hygiene kits and fire extinguishers. Children’s kits were also distributed to 2,566 students across 64 schools.
Early recovery – 192 transitional homes
A month on, the flood waters had receded. Yet, there was still an urgent requirement for shelters to sustain the most vulnerable families through the sub-zero winter.
With the race against time to complete them before the snow fell, the design had to be one that could be constructed very quickly. Finalised in consultation with the community, it kept in line with local architecture. The design added disaster-resilient safety features such as raised plinth heights and cross-bracing. Emphasis was also given to locally available and salvaged material that could be re-used later on. Local construction skills were used that could be easily done by the community and helped scale up swiftly.
With the active participation of the house owners themselves and the tireless work of the local mason-carpenter teams, 100 transitional houses and 42 toilets were built in just two months!
They were personalised by the families and have also proved a comfortable home through the winter
Spreading smiles across 5 schools
We began with the Primary School in in Wani Batoo village and the Upper Primary school in Hajibal village. Both were in remote corners that had been overlooked, and the Wani Batoo school even had to be relocated to Nowdal village because of the risk of its location.
The designs kept structural safety for the high earthquake and flood risk at the core. However, it also aimed for a spirit of simplicity and spaciousness. Exposed brickwork, high ceilings, large windows and artful incorporation of timber gave both schools a distinct visual identity. The designs reflected vernacular approaches and local construction techniques.
With no provision of safe and clean drinking water at the schools, RO filters were installed and drinking water facilities added. The conscious design choices were all more conducive to better study. The final schools generated curiosity among the community to further use these techniques and even resulted in new enrolments!
Three years hence, many school buildings still awaited restoration and classes continued to be held in unsafe temporary arrangements. We decided to help restore another three schools in Pulwama, spreading smiles and DRR knowledge among 500 more students. Using innovative design again, the roof and window designs were the biggest hit among the students! Workshops also focused on the possible usage of the campus during non-school hours, for common purposes at community level.
The initiative in all the schools went beyond brick and mortar alone. School Management Committees were oriented on risk reduction practices. Students and teachers were given basic emergency training. Task forces on first aid, fire safety, search and rescue and early warning were created in the neighbouring community. These increased ownership, and sowed seeds for broader community disaster management planning.
Learn more about this initiative