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Gujarat weighing pre-fabricated houses

Vinod Mathew

BHUJ, March 23

THE State Government, which has deferred its decision on rehabilitation in the four worst affected Kutch towns of Bhuj, Anjar, Bachau and Rapar till date is expected to come out with an action plan for the homeless.

According to senior Government officials in Gandhinagar, the blueprint would showcase prefabricated houses as the long-term solution in the quake prone district.

Meanwhile, the Reliance Industries has unveiled two prefabricated model houses in Bhuj and offered them to the State Government saying this could be the potential solution to rehabilitating those who became homeless after the quake.

Pegged at a cost of Rs 4,000 per sq.m, the 30 sq.m. model would cost Rs 1.2 lakh while the 50 sq.m. one would cost Rs 2 lakh.

These prefabricated houses have been brought in from the Royal Building Systems, Canada. It is still not clear whether these units made of PVC panellings would have to be imported once the State Government gives the green signal to this model and the dem and goes up.

Reliance Industries has indicated that it is also planning to erect 20 pre-fabricated PVC office blocks of one lakh sq.m. each in the second phase of its rehabilitation operations, which would commence next month.

The main advantages of the pre-fabricated units are that they can be built in less than five days and are anti-corrosive. According to those who had put up the structures in Bhuj, these plastic houses can be built up to three floors and are built to with stand earthquakes of eight on the Richter scale. These units do not require normal maintenance work like paint and plastering and would last for more than 30 years.

However, it is still not clear as to what the quake-affected people of Kutch would want as their place of residence for the coming decade or two.

Abhiyan, the NGO that is acting as the nodal agency for most of the national voluntary agencies and even the foreign aid bodies working in the rural Kutch, is of the opinion that not many people here would want to live in plastic houses and they should n ot be forced to do so in the name of any centralised decision.

``The people of this district are looking at rebuilding their houses along the traditional lines as a temporary solution till the Government comes with definite policy on long term housing. Even for permanent structures, they would be looking at indigeno us solutions. Living in pre-fabricated houses made of plastic would be alien to them and it may not be a good idea considering the severe heat here during summers,'' said Ms Sushma Iyengar, chief co-ordinator of Abhiyan.

Helping out the people here in finding their own housing solutions are a few professors from the Indian Institute of Science (IIS), Bangalore including Dr Yoganand and Mr T Krishna. With the help of the IIS professors, Abhiyan has already put up some hal f a dozen model houses in Bhuj.

The agency has also started imparting training to the local masons with an eye on getting in place one trained person in each village. The temporary bhoongas (huts) made of debris stone and thatched roof which comes at Rs 9,000 as temporary housing can a lso be improved upon to make permanent structures out of them, they point out.

Now, the people of Kutch would get to choose between the two divergent housing solutions on offer as both are displayed in Bhuj. On the one hand there are the pucca houses made of concrete and stone with random belts holding together the wall every one f eet or so at a cost of Rs 42,000 as also from designer sand bricks with seven per cent cement at Rs 39,000.

While the traditional and indigenous type domiciles are smaller in size (12 ft x 12 ft), the imported pre-fabricated units are much larger in size and more suited to mass rehabilitation - the one point that is being highlighted by some of the Government officials here.

Whether the affected villagers would want to have a hand in constructing their own houses or prefer to move into houses provided on a turnkey basis by the State government is the major question. One that will have to be answered before the onset of the m onsoons.

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