Saturday 18 June 2005
From: Claire de Boursac
Received by: Email.
Monsoon Shelter Plan Comes Together
In light of the dire situation, we are keen to start the project as soon as possible. Immediately after the initial meeting both Aid Sri Lanka and Impakt Aid set about brainstorming. Drawing on contacts in the commercial and NGO community for advice a plan was developed which involved building 98 wooden shelters, communal cooking areas, a drainage system and additional toilet facilities.
A survey of the land was undertaken to calculate the maximum unit size the plot would permit, while leaving corridors of five feet between the rows. The proposed wooden structures resemble those of the surrounding camps, as supplied by established agencies. The plans met with approval from the camp residents, however they had some concerns about the temperature inside. A ceiling of 10ft and the use of wood and tar paper instead of the commonly-used corrugated iron were suggested and greeted with approval.
Water and sanitation
Investigations revealed that the land on the site was significantly lower than the roads surrounding it so the idea of making holes in the perimeter wall to allow for drainage had to be scrapped. A system of drainage channels and seepage pits was designed. Drawing on the observations of the community, the flow of surface water was identified and a system planned to work with, rather than against, the natural flow. The residents have been showed how to measure the height of the land using a clear tube and water and will undertake a survey to confirm the plans are correct. In order to reduce the volume of water reaching the ground in the site, the roofs of the shelters against the perimeter wall are to overhang slightly, feeding the rainwater in to the street. Drainage gullies will be dug to ensure that this water does not run-off in to the neighbouring properties.
The stagnant well which is currently full of rubbish will be cleaned and sealed to prevent further contamination and risk of malaria and other diseases. There are currently only two toilets for the 368 residents. Both are squat toilets which are proving difficult for the elderly and heavily pregnant. Two squat and two commodes will be provided.
Method of Construction
The principal is to provide the materials and guidance to enable the inhabitants to construct the shelters themselves. Local to this area famed for its timber production, many of the inhabitants worked at saw mills or as carpenters before the tsunami and the majority of them built the shacks they were living in along the beach. This approach will provide the residents with a sense of ownership of the completed shelters which is not there if the finished product is simply presented as a gift. While they will not receive a wage for it, they will be working which will boost their confirm that they are still capable of working and hopefully help to avert the culture of dependency common after disasters and while not yet present in this camp, is spreading in Sri Lanka.
The lack of space available means that the tents must be dismantled before the construction can start. We propose to take down one row of tents at a time and only to provide wood for the next row of shelters when the previous row is finished. The displaced families will stay with their neighbours while the new home is under construction. This plan was eagerly accepted by the residents who are a tight knit community who work extremely well together. This approach would not be possible in many other camps.
Several meetings with the residents have taken place to ensure that the proposed plans adequately meet there needs. Since they will be undertaking the majority of the construction work it has been essential that they are involved in every step of the design process and that they are clear about exactly what the plan involves.
Now all that remains is to source the material and get building!