Bharatpur Housing Project
The housing project has given hope to the community in building a better future for them. Settled at the fringe of the Chitwan National Park, Salyani community gives an impression of a rural setting, in an urban context. The community comprises of 31 families, who were relocated here from different informal settlements in the same ward, as they were living in an extremely vulnerable condition. They were either settled on private lands or living on high risk areas such as right over the municipal drains, on the river banks.
In other words, they faced major constraints for sustainable livelihood, and lacked access to basic urban services. In accordance with the responsible political parties and the Municipality, the vulnerable families were identified and each family was given equal land to settle in their present location less than five years ago. The settlement runs alongside of the community forest that was established as the buffer zone of the National Park. Therefore, every household is a member of this forest and they have easy access to timber for firewood and construction. This resource was exploited while developing the housing scheme with the community.
The individual households were characterized by compactly laid out bamboo, thatch and mud structures with minimum or no ventilation. Most of these were in rather dilapidated condition. These were neatly arranged along the stretch of the road, which lies west of the National Park’s buffer zone. Each individual household is the legal owner of 5.15x16 sq m (approx) of land, given to them by the Municipality. When they started to live here, all coming from different communities in the city, they were a little skeptical about the government’s decision to allow them to settle here permanently and even doubted each other. They were concerned that they might be evicted from here as well and lose their investment in shelter once again. And this fear of eviction led them to build very temporary structures towards the road.
With the construction of houses in the community, the confidence level of the members is at a new high as it is entirely community managed housing. The community was responsible for the management of the funds, procurement of the material, and building the houses. The savings group in the community grew and is stronger than ever. The land for the housing was granted by the municipality. As affordability was a major issue for most of the people, this influenced the amount taken as a housing loan, which was at a minimum interest of 5% payable over 5 years. The loan ranges from NRs. 50,000 to NRs. 1, 00,000. Selection of houses for reconstruction was prioritized based on the consent of the entire community members and loans were given to the families who could afford them. 50% of the total construction costs have been contributed by the owners themselves, thus, they have invested their own savings as well.
There was maximum participation of women in decision making and management of funds. They were involved in the planning, development phase, and in making crucial decisions up to the implementation phase. What is more intriguing is that repayment of the loans has been very organized and regular. To save on the cost of the purchase of materials, the required quantity for all the construction work were purchased together. The construction was supervised by the builders from among themselves with support from Lumanti team and Municipality technician. The community based design process helped to identify the construction team from the community itself. Each helped to build others homes, thus, it was a collaborative effort by all.
There is variation in the type of construction materials in these buildings, depending on the financial status of the households. The houses have been built entirely by the people, showing a variety of incremental building strategies and budgets, using a variety of materials and construction systems (purchased collectively in bulk by the community committee), with stone and concrete foundations, brick or bamboo-and-mud walls, timber or bamboo roof structures, zinc sheet roofing, and wooden doors and windows which the people negotiated to get from the Forestry Department at subsidized rates. In addition to this, they managed to negotiate to utilize the open space opposite of their settlement for urban agriculture. This will be a collective effort of all and a step to create a self reliant community.
The trend of seeking continuous dialogue with the municipality to collaborate for the benefit of the community has developed. Through this, they were able to receive funds from the municipality for in-filling the land. The municipality also provided them with two public water pumps. The municipality has agreed to mobilize the resources to further support infrastructure development, such as drainage in the community. This clearly illustrates the change in the perception of the local governing body towards the poor communities.
Salayani community demonstrates a process through which the community members develop a viable solution for their housing problems and work hand-in-hand to ensure secure tenure in the city. Making themselves organized, strengthening their savings, planning their community, developing management skills, the people from the community have established an effective model to resolve the issues of the squatters in an urban area, which can be replicated in the other communities or other cities as well.