In the first week of September 2014, the state of Jammu and Kashmir, India, experienced the worst flood that it has 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.
Pulwama and Poonch districts were two of the worst affected and it was here that SEEDS began relief distribution efforts on September 17th, 2014. The relief kits were based on identified needs that emerged from the community themselves. This included a shelter kit with tents and bedding; a utensil kit with kitchen essentials; and a hygiene kit. 314 of the most vulnerable families were selected; following a rigorous identification process and an accountable distribution system. The effort was closely collaborated with the district administration and Department of Police. Continuing education was another priority. School kits with tent infrastructure, temporary toilets, hygiene kits, fire extinguishers and students needs, for 23 temporary learning centres in action. Children’s kits were distributed to 2,566 students across 64 schools.
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 but with 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’ve been personalised by families and have also proved a comfortable home through the winter.