Restoring Shelters after the Thane Cyclone

The need
In the early hours of 30th December, 2011, Cyclone Thane struck the coast of Tamil Nadu, devastating the coastal districts, as well as some parts of Chennai. Life came to a standstill and the accessibility was virtually cut off. While the death toll was not very large, there was heavy damage to the shelters; particularly among the most marginalised communities. Compensation by the government was offered only to those affected families with land titles (pattas). So, despite having lived there for generations, those deemed landless in official records were left out. These were some of the families most in need.

How we helped
SEEDS and local partner Kalvi Kendra focused on reconstruction for 22 landless and marginalised families in Narasingapuram Village. The process began with thorough analysis of existing building typology, materials and nature of workmanship. Several different models were tried since an innovative solution had to be found. The homes had to ‘permanent’ enough to cater to needs and aspirations, while still complying with government norms on permanent housing.

In the end, an earth bag building with CGI sheet roofing was selected as the best option. This design incorporated flood and cyclone resistance, helped maintain thermal comfort and retained traditional functional aspects.

A prototype was first built in the centre of the village to impart awareness. 60 local masons were trained on the technology and on disaster risk reduction techniques. After that, the 22 homes were all built through an owner-driven reconstruction approach. Each household was given a smart card for monitoring, with the required material being distributed as per the prescribed stage of the construction. The community too was mobilised to contribute to the construction, particularly in the filling of earth bags and cutting bamboo pegs.

Other landless households in the village who homes just needed repairing or retrofitting were also given technical support and advice by the team.