The non-stop torrential rains in two consecutive spells in November and December 2015 brought the urban life of Chennai to a standstill. Over 400,000 people were affected by the worst flooding witnessed by the state in the last 100 years.
How we helped
In the immediate aftermath of the floods, extensive relief operations reached out to 7328 families residing in 10 low-income areas of Chennai. Working with the Madras School of Social Work, hygiene kits with essential utilities were distributed. For near real time monitoring, a mobile application was used for collection of data and geo-tagging of every family receiving our support.
Madhavaram, a northern suburb on the outskirts of town, was one of the most affected. Unlike other slums in Chennai, this community had received little assistance from the government.
Homes here were mainly thatch huts which had completely collapsed. We worked with 200 of these families to get back a home.
The houses themselves has to be quick to build, low-cost and comfortable to live in. The crowded urban setting also meant size customisations were required according to the family’s available land.
The design process used pre-fabricated elements of RCC pillars and ferro-cement panels to quicken the process. The walling went through several options. Finally, bamboo mats sandwiched with plastic sheeting was agreed upon by the community. This lightweight alternative required no plastering and was conducive to the climate. The bamboo mats were procured from Kerala (for higher quality) and the actual walls were assembled in a workshop locally.
Water, sanitation and hygiene awareness
Aside from the houses, larger outreach activities around hygiene promotion, safe drinking water and refurbishing of a school were carried out as part of SEEDS’ overall initiative.
The practice of 1% mother solution chlorination was introduced to clean oral contamination in the large water tanks. WASH committees set up in the different clusters oversaw this process, as well as street and drainage cleaning.
The toilets, mid-day meal areas and kitchen of PNSS school which lay in disarray were also repaired, refurbished and upgraded.
These activities touched the lives of over 2400 families across 13 clusters in the area.
Leaving a mark
The Chennai programme was the first large-scale urban rebuilding project for us. The unique challenges provided a lot of learning. It was also a chance to encourage local entrepreneurship. Small business owner Yemen played a key role first in relief distribution and became a leading force in the pre-fab pillar construction. The newfound skills have expanded his business orders after the programme ended.
Learn more about this initiative