Monday, 28 September 2015

Mahila Housing SEWA Trust Selected as a Winner of the Global Resilience Challenge

We are ecstatic to announce that we have been selected as a winning team of the Global Resilience Challenge! Out of nearly 500 applications submitted, the Mahila Housing SEWA Trust team (with 17 partners) was selected as one of eight winning teams. The Global Resilience Challenge is a multi-stage design competition designed to surface transformative resilience solutions to problems that threaten the lives and livelihoods of the most vulnerable populations in the Sahel, Horn of Africa and South and Southeast Asia.

Mahila Housing SEWA Trust (MHT) Team with 17 partners across South Asia will now receive up to $1 million in funding to implement our proposed solution in a way that can be scaled and adopted by others in the future. The solution MHT proposed, focuses on the 4 most pressing climate-related risks faced by the communities; heat waves, flodding, water scarcity and water and vector borne diseases. The proposed solution model would be community-based, women-led, integrated and partnership based, evidence based and will focus on the innovative communication strategies to promote community-level resilience actions.

"We are extremely happy to be the winners of the challenge. Through this challenge, we are aiming to build community-based climate resilience with a strong focus on women empowerment" said Bijal Brahmbhatt, Director of MHT.

For more information on this exciting announcement, visit

Thursday, 18 June 2015

It is time to turn the tables…..

It is high time to turn the tables and let the people talk. That’s what I realized when Mahila Housing SEWA Trust (MHT) first invited me to talk to some women leaders from slums in Ahmedabad (Gujarat, India) on the issue of Climate Change. A talk which I thought would be quite easy turned out to be a daunting task when I realized I was talking to women who had no idea of Global Warming, Scenario Projections, not even Greenhouse Effect. And yet they were the ones I knew are to be the most affected by the impact of the changing climate. So I did what I knew best, asked the women what they were experiencing about the changing weather conditions. And voil├á, the women not only knew what was happening, but were in their own ways developing mechanisms to cope with it.  It was very individual specific, often based on traditional knowledge, but it was working for them. This got me thinking, if just experience could help a group of women to fix so many problems, what could they not do if they had the requisite scientific knowledge, capacities and technologies. Can this be a way to develop actionable adaptation plans? To get solutions which are demonstrated on the ground, and which the world of poor will be ready to adopt because it would seem so real, so near to them.

I think the answer definitely is a YES.

BUT, and it’s a big but, how do we actually transfer this scientific knowledge to them. Climate science, is a very technical subject (or maybe we have made it so) and it felt very difficult to transfer the science to the lesser literate or often illiterate women. Again there is the complexity of inter-linkages and inter-connectedness between various issues, which needs to be understood before one takes decisions. A simple solution like a pond- which may seem very environment friendly and helpful in ground water recharge can be actually not so useful if the region is going to have high heat waves and thereby high evaporation rates and worst could be disastrous if the water pathways are highly contaminated especially with sewage and other solid waste as we could end up contaminating the ground water aquifer. This needs multi-disciplinary approach and so we needed a multi-disciplinary team to work together with each other and with the women to help them devise the most useful solutions.

AND, here came another challenge. Sectoral experts are often very possessive about their own subjects and not so open when comes to deviating from their said hypothesis. So it was important to develop a common framework which they could work on. This is easier said than done as we did not know how to develop this “COMMON” framework. That’s where I though the women could take the lead and they did. We exposed the women to the sectoral thinking, provided them with a few participatory tools to go back to their communities and understand the nuances and within a fortnight they were back, talking one-on-one terms with the experts, getting them on track if they deviated, suggesting localized/cheaper versions of technical solutions and working towards a common goal of people’s “LIVELIHOOD”, because that is at stake. As one Meenaben put it, “This is just about explaining to the community that what we should do now so that we can continue to live like this (read maintain this lifestyle) in the coming years also.” Such a simple definition of resilience and now we will be working jointly towards building capacities for the same.

So how did this happen and so soon. Does it provide some lessons for others? It definitely did for me. Firstly, I think it is important to begin work with communities which already have a higher social capital, preferably groups which have worked on governance issues before. They have a perspective and understand the necessary riggings to pull through such a complex problem. It also helped that the group we are dealing with has a previous experience of using GPS and mobile technology in their work. Secondly, women having a larger stake show higher acceptance of tougher decisions. Our women were talking of water meters and carbon tax for vehicles- quite radical considering we are talking of slum communities here. Thirdly, when you talk of adaptation, the solutions are getting designed from a mitigation perspective also. This surprised me, by the way, but it seems easier when you are talking of protecting people to get them to protect the environment. Even though we did not think so the women were talking of bio-diversity and the need to conserve the same in cities. Also, there are many solutions already existing on the ground, a lot of traditional (and even modern) knowledge available which we need to document and invest in for scaling. The communities have a lot to learn from each other and this becomes very fruitful when we get people talking who now are facing opposite climate conditions. So we had women from Jaipur and Ahmedabad (traditionally water scare areas) teaching water management techniques to women from Ranchi (which has high rainfall but is now becoming water scarce) while the latter reciprocated with their traditional knowledge of combating heat stress. And the last but not the least, there was the benefit of developing localized cheap coping mechanisms which can have multiple affects. I would end with this simple solution shared by the women, “Cover your roof with wet paddy husk and enjoy a cooler home. Buy it before the summers and sell it after the first rains and get most of your money back. It is simple, effective and affordable.” There have been many strong technical suggestions too, our sectoral experts now have a lot of work on their hands, customizing these for adoption, but they are very enthusiastic, as they know, this time people will also listen to them, as they are listening to the people.

By Dharmistha Chauhan, Strategic Advisor to Mahila Housing SEWA Trust.  Dharmistha is a development consultant with 15 years of experience working in India for promoting Sustainable Livelihoods of women, farmers and informal sector workers.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Director Speaks

Earlier this year our Director Bijal Brahmbhatt was featured in 'Women of Pure Strength' -second  edition of a coffee table book by the Vodafone Foundation. The Book chronicles efforts of 50  dynamic women in their contribution to our diverse socio-economic milieu. 

The book was launched by boxing champion MC Mary Kom at an event in Delhi. 

Bijal Brahmbhatt's 'Women of Pure Strength' Story

She has single-handedly brought the Mahila Housing Trust to where we are today. We decided to publish here her full interview. It is, after all, also the story of MHT.

Give us a brief account of your journey; from where you started to where you have reached today

In 1992 I graduated as a civil engineer, however like most Indian youngsters, with no idea of the road map I wanted to follow, for my future career and life. I spent some time, exploring and experiencing a variety of things, including teaching prospective engineering students. Those were the days when a woman’s presence on construction sites was unheard of. I took that up as a challenge, and just to prove that women engineers could be as competent in execution onsite, for two years I worked with a private firm, executing projects, handling the workers and quite often, hearing some very crude personal remarks, behind my back. My academician father who was also very involved in the voluntary sector introduced me to Ms. Renana Jhabvala of the Self Employed Womens’ Association (SEWA) in 1998. She immediately proposed, that I work with the “Mahila Housing SEWA Trust, (MHT) an autonomous organization promoted by SEWA, to work on habitat related issues of poor women. Because the SEWA experience showed that for a poor woman, her house is her workplace, her storehouse, her godown and her productive asset. MHT was a nascent organization with only three years into its inception. I get nostalgic when I go down the memory lane, and recollect myself as an enthusiastic, inexperienced and ordinary engineer, who joined MHT in 1998. The initial experiences made me unlearn all that I had learnt from my formal education. MHT was working in three slums in Ahmedabad, with two other staff besides me. We had only one programme- Providing Basic services to the urban poor, with presence in a single city, Ahmedabad, our headquarter. There was no blue print to follow. SEWA leadership was extremely busy and  habitat was a complex subject, specifically because it is a huge endeavour in terms of asset  building and in urban areas, issues of tenure are quite complex . The idea was to go completely by the demand of the poor women.
Today, MHT has a staff of 72 employees, with over 3000 grassroots volunteers. Our work has expanded to six states some of which are very poor, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Delhi, Bihar, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh.
The portfolio of our work has expanded to seven areas:
1. Basic Services for Urban poor.
2. Affordable Housing and Land Rights.
3.  Housing and Infrastructure Finance.
4. Urban Governance.
5. Energy and Climate Change.
6. Rural Housing, Water and Sanitation
7. Shelter based livelihoods.
So far we have changed the quality of life of 3,04,545 families, over 15,00,000/ poor individuals across the  Nation. MHT is also beginning its work in South –Asia region, in December 2015.
My relationship with MHT has been symbiotic; I have had a major role to play in all MHT’s initiatives. Graduating from a coordinator, to the director of the organization, I have become an expert in slum upgrading, renewable and efficient energy. Land rights for the poor, Housing Finance, Development of public –private peoples partnership etc.
Some of the MHT initiatives which have had received worldwide recognition under my leadership are:

The Slum Networking Project:
MHT has assisted the poor women in forging innovative partnerships, with the urban local bodies to reach improved housing and basic services including water and sanitation to over 1,94000 individuals. The Government has contributed Rs. 57,852,349/- with a matching contribution from the communities to the tune of Rs. 316,209,283/- Biogas and Eco san toilets have been promoted. MHT has been able to master the art of establishing local partnerships and taking them to a national level across six states in India. One such partnership in the “SLUM NETWORKING PROJECT” with the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation has received the Dubai Best Practices International Award in the year 2006.

Global showcase for slum electrification:
MHT has empowered Community Based Organizations (CBOs) in Ahmedabad, who worked with a private sector company to get legal electricity for all the slum dwellers of Ahmedabad. A slum electrification department was established at the company and pro-poor systems were created and institutionalized. All the poor households at Ahmedabad now are legally electrified. (Approximately 1, 58,000). This programme has been quoted as a global showcase by USAID in the energy sector.

AWAAS SEWA PVT LTD: A poor women’s social enterprise for market based low income housing
This social enterprise has been established as a special purpose vehicle for market based housing. MHT along with the women has become a pro poor market based developer for low income housing. The pilot project has been facilitated by Ashoka.

Incremental Housing Finance: 
Most MFI’s lend less than Rs. 1,00,000 to the poor for housing. The Housing Finance Companies which lend for low income mortgage beyond Rs. 5,00,000. However, the current need of the poor is the missing middle category of “Rs. 1,00,000 to Rs. 3,00,000 lakh”. MHT has developed an innovative tool “semi formal mortgages” to determine the security of tenure and give loans to the poor in that category. MHT along with SEWA Bank and other institutions has facilitated loans to over 50,000 poor women.

MHT has been nominated on the following committees of the Government, where I represent MHT, 

     Appointed as a consulting expert by the Gujarat Urban Development Authority for            Urban Poor Programs
   Member on the expert committee for the Rajiv Awas Yojana of the Government of Gujarat
   On the guiding committee of Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation for implementing JNNURM
     Task Force Member, Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) task force for Affordable Housing
    Steering Committee Member, Affordable Housing and Poverty Alleviation for 12th five year plan, Planning Commission
    HUDCO and the National Housing Bank work very closely with MHT in formulating their pro-poor programs.

In 2012 we were recognized by Dasra among the top ten organizations at the national level doing effective water and sanitation for the poor. In 2014 we received the Asia Urban Futures award for “Urban Resilience”. In October 2014 the CNN International in its “Transformation” series showcased the Slum Networking Project of AMC and MHT.
In 2013 I was felicitated by “Women Change Makers” for my contribution to Women’s Empowerment.
DBS Private limited, a builder in the affordable Housing Market has appointed me on their advisory committee.
My work has been recognized by the SEWA Group of organizations, by appointing me on the Board of Directors of several organizations, specifically to mention SEWA Grih Rin (a national level housing finance company) and Awaas Sewa Pvt .ltd. (a construction company for the building for the poor.)  Thus I have grown personally and professionally with the organization.

     What are the singular challenges that you have faced in this journey?
     The challenge at the Government level is to sensitize it, change its approach and bring in transparency and accountability. At the lower levels in the Government, it is difficult to explain that MHT is not a mere construction contractor. The tremendous effort required to be put in to translate change from policy level to the grassroots is a real challenge.
     Regulatory   restrictions have also been a deterrent for eg. Credit cooperatives are the best financial entity suited to finance but there are severe restrictions on its geographic expansion. Thus organizations like MHT are always in a dilemma whether to have a more pro poor operational structure, or have a structure (Like a Company), which is not necessarily most appropriate for the poor, but gives scale.
     Financial sustainability is one of the biggest challenges, along with maintaining the scale that MHT has already achieved. Also managing the relationships between the diverse natures of staffing at MHT, sensitization of new staff to maintain the organizational philosophy and ethos, at the same time delivering the targets to the donors has been a struggle.
     Learning to work successfully with the private sector is a challenge.
     On a personal level, maintaining the balance between personal and professional life has always been a challenge.

      Has being a woman helped or hindered your path to success?

Being a woman has been a mixed bag of feelings. I joined a woman’s organization which was run, owned and managed by the women. Especially it had the SEWA ethos where feminism was celebrated along with the ethos of mother hood and woman hood. Children were allowed at work and a favorable environment   was created where the women colleagues irrespective of caste, creed shared their work as well as difficulties and learnt to celebrate woman hood.
At the government level, the functionaries initially underestimated your abilities hindrances were less due to underestimation, which later on turned to respect and awe.
It was however a bit difficult when men and women of your immediate neighborhood were curiously asking questions, due to odd work hours, and frequent travel. Safety issues become a concern when you had to travel all alone to very remote, unknown areas.
However overall the journey has been very fruitful and one which help me shed my own inhibitions.
       Does a supportive family, spouse, or social network help in a woman's career? How?
Yes, a supportive family and spouse definitely helps a woman’s career. I believe that women are creators. The virtue of patience and perseverance gives them the ability to nurture growth. The growth could be of any kind. It could be within the family as well as in her work. She has the ability to multi task. However, the support of the family, specially spouse and the social  network enhance these abilities manifolds.
A caring spouse, who takes the responsibility of the children, and is supportive to odd working hours sets her mind at ease. A word or two of appreciation about her work, makes her all the more determined   to face the challenges of her career and home. A free mind adds to her productivity and efficiency     

     Was there a specific incident that helped shape your career or an incident that inspired you greatly?

Rather than a single event, I should say that, there have been several occasions and personalities which have shaped my career. During the course of my work I was in touch with some of the very senior women leadership at SEWA, who were on the board of MHT. They were leaders who had very high educational qualifications, in some of the very reputed universities of the world, including the Harvard and Yale. However, they had dedicated their entire lives to the cause of women’s movement. Had they led a normal life, their training would have fetched them huge financial  gains. They decided to give that up and be with the movement, taking only a small honorarium to help them sustain themselves, being true with the Gandhian Philosophy.

They helped me respect a woman’s role in entirety, including the beauty of being a mother, visa vis the typical picture that I had in my mind about women’s empowerment , which was created by the corporate sector. They inculcated a leadership quality in me which believed in creating, rather than destroying, to go ahead.

The other major source of inspiration have been those thousands of grassroots leaders, who despite being uneducated and poor, have strived relentlessly to change their life, thus empowering the movement and  their own life and families. They helped me understand that leadership was a quality that came from within and therefore had less to do with education or social background.
     What according to you is leadership and how is the definition of leadership changing for women?

Leadership according to me is having a mission in life, believing in it, enabling the masses to believe in the mission and having the vision to create a path, which leads towards the fulfillment of the mission. Leadership also should enable a change for the better. A leader leads by example.

For women, the challenge is to create a women’s movement. A movement where economic enterprises and other organizations are of the women, for the women and by the women. Enterprises which help women alleviate poverty, which bring in her voice, increase her bargaining power and visibility, thereby building her leadership and self reliance.
    Which leadership qualities do you think have helped shaped your career and distinguished you as a woman leader?

Personally I am a down to earth, honest, forthright and a loyal individual. I also believe in taking risks. The environment at MHT has inculcated in me, a spirit of questioning, and willingness to learn at any age. As a leader, I have understood the changing trends in the sector, very early on, and molded the organization accordingly. I have led the organization by example.

The intention of taking challenges and risk has also brought a national scale to our programme. I believe that innovative thinking supported by effective management systems is the key to growth. I also very strongly understand that cadres of leadership have to be built to start and sustain development.  I have been doing so, decentralizing the leadership and building joint cadres of leadership of grassroots women with professional women, bringing in sustainable development.   
        How have you balanced your professional and personal life?

I married and started a family, almost at the time I started my work with the Mahila Housing SEWA Trust. The organization was nascent then, that gave me some time with my family. I have two children, both of them very young when I started my career. I used to give more time to them then. Also my work at the Mahila Housing SEWA Trust was very new and thus not very demanding. To my husband and his family, the concept of the developmental sector was very new. The concept of development to them was more welfare oriented, rather than the empowerment approach at SEWA. My working hours were not the traditional “office time”, but suited to the needs of the grassroots poor women. Sometimes I had to go early in the morning, or late in the evenings to hold meetings in the villages and slums. During riots and disasters like earth quakes, while most women would prefer to stay at home, we had to work longer hours. Slowly and patiently I worked on them to make them understand my work and my view points. My Husband, then brought up, as a typical middleclass Indian male, not used to take care of the household chores, started supporting me, to the best of his abilities.

The task of balancing my personal and professional life has been achieved through multiple strategies. Firstly, making my children strong and independent. Secondly, increasing my own management abilities at work and at home. Thirdly at the organizational level, building the cadres of leadership which would support me and to whom I could rely on, to pass the responsibilities. The work hours, though long were flexible. While my family slowly learnt to manage itself, I spent quality time with them, always being there through all the important milestones of their education, and life and during all the emergencies.

        What gives you the biggest sense of achievement?

My biggest sense of achievement comes from watching hundreds of thousands of women, joining the movement of poverty alleviation, the movement of women’s leadership and self reliance and relentlessly battling the odds to improve their habitats, their work, and thereby their quality of life

Finally, we sign off this post with our post-event office celebration.
Co-incidentally our Vodafone 'World of Difference' Volunteers were around to celebrate too.

Team MHT

Monday, 16 March 2015

For 2  months, the Mahila Housing Trust hosted Vodafone Foundation - World Of Difference volunteers Dipika Majumdar from Kolkata and Ankit Jain from Pune. We invited the corporate to learn about our internal processes and suggest changes. It was an eventful journey for all of us. Coming from the world of IT & Communications they helped us share our work in a manner that will make us more inviting, more interesting..

In the end, it was a transformation, for us all. A fruitful NGO - Corporate partnership if we may say so.

Here's what they did for us...

We are extremely grateful to the duo for them.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

On Tuesday, Mahila Housing SEWA Trust, was notified by the Global Resilience Partnership, an initiative spear-headed by The Rockefeller Foundation, United States Agency for International Development, and the Swedish International development Cooperation Agency, that we have been selected as a finalist in the Global Resilience Challenge.

The partnership is looking to build resilience to acute shocks and chronic stresses in the Sahel, Horn of Africa, and South and Southeast Asia – complex regions with high resilience needs.

We are excited for our nomination and look forward to the second-stage of the three-stage grant competition convening multidisciplinary and cross-sectoral teams to craft locally-driven, high-impact solutions that build resilience, with the opportunity to qualify for up to $1 million for implementation and continued innovation.

“A great achievement for the entire team. " said Bijal Brahmbhatt, Director, Mahila Housing SEWA Trust. "Through the Global Resilience Challenge, we are looking forward to provide environmentally sustainable and socially acceptable solutions to the climate induced risks and build resilience in 7 cities of South Asia". 

Out of nearly 500 applications submitted, the Mahila Housing SEWA Trust team was selected as one of the 16 organizations to identify resilience problems and produce transformative solutions in South Asia region.

Mahila Housing SEWA Trust (MHT) proposed to create and implement resilience plans to address four major climate risks: heat stress, flash floods, acute water shortages and vector borne diseases through the project, “Devising Local Coping Mechanisms and Adapation Technologies to Build Climate-Resilience Capacities of the Urban Poor in South Asia.”

Friday, 30 January 2015

Workshop:Housing for all

Mahila Housing Trust in collaboration with Deutsche Gesellschaftf├╝r Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) Gmbh & Center For Environment Planning & Technology (CEPT) University has conducted a
National level workshop on "Housing for all: Lessons learnt and way forward" on 14th October 2014 at India Habitat Center ,New Delhi.

Objective of the workshop -

Both GIZ and MHT have gained considerable knowledge from the ground on in-situ slum upgrading and augmenting housing supply. It has been observed that undertaking such projects at the city level has its own complexities. These start from collection and management of data, formulation of DPRs, getting this sanctioned to actual implementation. There are added complexities of land issues, finance and private sector participation. MHT and GIZ have organized a one day workshop at Delhi on October 14, 2014 to share learning lessons and contribute to the way forward for providing housing for all. The workshop focused on the experiences of various actors and stakeholders across the country on the aspects of -
  • Role of Information Technology (IT) – from managing data to building houses.
  • Process innovation – empowering the Urban Local bodies.
  • Planning issues – imagining our cities.
  • Way ahead – housing for all

    Inaugural Session-

Ms. Aparna Das from GIZ welcomed all the participants and informed that the current workshop was a follow up to the workshop organized at Ahmedabad with MHT and CEPT University under the Indo-German Environment Partnership.  She also added that the “Inclusive Cities” Programme of the GIZ would be a way forward. Moving forward with the workshop on “Rajiv Awaas Yojana” at Ahmedabad, the current workshop was on the issue of “HOUSING FOR ALL” which the goal of the current Government of India. 

Keynote Address: Renana Jhabvala, Managing Trustee, MHT-

Smt Renana Jhabvala said that she was wondering whether to speak as an economist or as an experienced grassroots person. However the experiences at the grassroots were very powerful. She said that we talk about the urban areas without figures. Eighty percent of the people in urban areas were self employed and about 30 t0 40 percent were poor and have no space in the city. 

Address By: Dr. Regina Dube, Head & Senior Adviser, Sustainable Urban Habitat, GIZ

Dr. Dube said that the GIZ is the technical department of the German Government and is supporting India since last sixty years. In India, GIZ initiated working in the urban areas in 2008. She said that GIZ has been supporting the Indian Government, specially the Ministry of housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation and Ministry of Urban Development on issues of housing, solid waste management, sanitation through institutional capacity building.

The Workshop was divided into 3 sessions-

Session I -Role of Information Technology – from managing data to constructing houses-

Presentation by: Dhruv Bhavsar, Research Associate, CEPT University and Bharti Patel, A.C.E., Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation onIntegrating Information Technology in collecting, analysing and managing information base about the urban poor.

Mr. Dhruv Bhavsar, Research Associate from the CEPT University stated that they had jointly done the slum profiles of Ahmedabad with the Municipal Corporation and The Mahila Housing SEWA Trust (MHT).Ahmedabad had undertaken a data collection exercise in 1976 beyond which there was no data collection about slums. Taking the data from the NSSO as the base, mapping of slums was done on a GIS based platform by CEPT, with the validation of data and the community participation in the data being undertaken by MHT in presence of elected representatives. All the data was then directly linked with Google Earth, which made it easy to share and access. Information on service related issues was very easily available. Based on which a slum atlas was also prepared for the ULB. Some key information like the access to toilet, type of land tenure and building typologies was available from the database. The slums redevelopment strategy of Ahmedabad was being prepared on the basis of the mapping.

Presentation by: Ms. Shirley Ballaney, Environmental Planning Collaborative (EPC)

Shirley Ballaney from EPC presented on several quick methodologies that The EPC had developed using Google base maps to undertake various surveys like the surveys of chawls in Ahmedabad, Mapping of public lands in Ahmedabad. She mentioned that there is no official city map of Ahmedabad available. She mentioned that these quick, easy to use data collection enabled faster implementation. It also enabled some crucial data like categorization of low cost housing, built space per person, public lands in the city. This allowed EPC to get a sense of issues like 48% 0f population could not afford housing in Ahmedabad. More than half of the public land in Ahmedabad was owned by the AMC and the conservative estimates of these lands amounted to approximately 34,000 crores which can be leveraged. She also emphasized that the data and the maps are not included in the developmental plans instead they become only a onetime exercise. 

Presentation by: Mr. S. K. Mahajan, Director RAY, Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB)

 Shri Mahajan started his presentation by giving an overview of the Delhi slum clusters. There are 685 Jhuggi Jhopri (JJ) clusters in Delhi. Of which 95 JJ clusters have been prioritized by the DUSIB for redevelopment. Shri Mahajan emphasized that they had developed an in house team at the DUSIB which collected all the data on the slums and mapped on a GIS based platform. The data is extremely useful to make a tenability analysis of the slums. Based on which the DUSIB had fixed the policy of insitu slum upgradation under PPP model. Further he mentioned that only 25% of the land belongs to DUSIB and the other clusters were on the DDA, Railway lands. He also emphasized the fact that data was not the only issue which hampered the implementation, but the process of getting the approvals was also very lengthy and cumbersome. He suggested that having single window clearances would be effective for fast track implementation. 

The presentations were followed by question –answer sessions to the presenters and an open   Discussion.

Session II -Process innovation – empowering the Urban Local Bodies

Presentation by: Shri Santosh Gandevikar –D.G.M, Sintex Industries Limited on Mass Concrete technology 

Shri Santosh Gandevikar said that building technologies in India could be site based or factory built. The monolithic concrete construction technology was used in building some of the housing under Basic Services for the Urban Poor (BSUP) programme. Technology provides durable, fire-proof and pest-proof, storm-resistant construction which is easy to clean and maintain. He mentioned that the concrete is poured into formwork specially built for it. It is a very fast construction technology which is joint-less. And therefore the quality is maintained. It is completely maintenance free. The uniqueness of the technology was in the strength of the construction, the efficient land usage, simplicity in planning and design and the speed of the construction as well as cost effectiveness. A block of 32 houses could be constructed in a month and 20% time could be saved through Mass construction technology. Also the cost effectiveness of the housing technology was 10% more than the conventional technology. The CEPT University is doing a study on the effects of the technology on work environment and environment in general. Besides this, predetermined standards were already available in The Indian Standard Code for this technology. 

Presentation by: Shri Rahul Navalkar, Director, Morficon Systems on Use of Aluminium prefabricated form work for construction

Shri Navalkarji talked about the aluminium formwork as alternative option for building construction. He mentioned that it could be used for any type of building irrespective of the target group. It has a cooling impact in the hot summer days. The main features of the formwork are that it is very versatile and saves a lot of time. Using the formwork, four storeys could be constructed in 16 days. Because of the aluminium the quality and the durability of the housing units are very good and it could go without repairs for years together. It is extremely durable, has seismic resistance with high tensile strength. The form work can be reused again and again. Local production of the formwork can be undertaken. Houses get more carpet area because the thickness of the concrete is six inches versus a nine inch thick brick.  Centralized planning ensures standardization and involves better utilization of available technologies. It also helps in imparting training to local workforce's which can give them an added skill set thus enhancing their employment opportunity. 

Presentation by: Mukta Naik, Micro home solutions on Community involvement and design innovation in slum redevelopment

Ms. Mukta from Micro Home Solutions presented their innovative community owned design developed in consultation with MHT and the residents of the Sundernagari slum pocket in East Delhi. MHS had adopted the master plan of Delhi, inputs from the community and the RAY guide lines for the preparation of initial building designs. During the interactions with the community they understood that there were a lot of home based workers like shoe repairers, embroidery workers, dairy activities, stitching etc. the community had their apprehensions about relocation as they were using the streets opposite their houses as spaces to work and carry out their daily activities. Based on these interactions, MHS made three designs alternatives which were those of high rise, midrise and low rise apartment buildings. During the consultations, the high rise option was out rightly rejected and the community were ready to move into the mid rise apartments. The main feature of the new design was its modular cluster approach, based on two-level street designs. The two-level street offered the connectivity as well as the neighbourhood interaction space that the community considers essential to the way they live and work. Moreover, the community particularly accepted it because they could easily transport material to their homes and carry finished goods out via strategically located staircases and ramps. Residents were aware that low-income high-rise developments have been unsuccessful in maintaining essential amenities such as elevators. The cluster design ensures light and ventilation in every unit. The scale of development was conducive to current social practices and lifestyle. The modular design was done on a 4m-by-4m grid which gave flexibility and options for unit sizes (18, 32, and 48 square meters) based on family size, capacity to pay and livelihood requirements. The scheme also provides for commercial space, community areas, workshop spaces for those who opt not to work from home in the new development.

The floor was later opened for discussions.

SESSION III-Planning issues : imagining our cities 

Presentation by: Ms. Shirley Ballaney, Environmental Planning Collaborative (EPC)

Ms. Ballaney presented an innovation on how working on the byelaws to make it more pro poor could reduce the costs of construction by almost 33% by taking the case of a site in Ahmedabad. She mentioned that the public sector delivery of housing was very slow and therefore the private sector also needed to get involved in the low cost housing delivery. The three important factors affecting the costs of construction were land construction costs, development control regulations and profits. Some housing sites at Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority area were studied and due to the rigid regulations full FSI was not consumed which added on the cost. She presented an exercise where the byelaws were relaxed for designing a housing layout which was jointly done on a site by MHT and EPC. The presentation showcased how the crucial aspects of “Density, Fire Safety and Quality of Life” were taken care of by the innovativeness in the relaxation. A comparative analysis of the costs was done and merely by the relaxation of the byelaws, the costs of the project were reduced by   33% which meant that a ten lakh rupee low cost house would cost a mere six lakh plus. She also mentioned that the density of the population should be looked at more holistically, based on an entire area rather than only a pocket.

Closing Session -

The closing session had a discussion on the way forward followed by a vote of thanks by Ms. Aparna Das, GIZ.
Some of the high lights of the discussion were:
Cities should emerge with good project plans; only then fast approval of the projects will come through. Currently, only use of a different technology is recognized as innovations. However innovations in design and processes were viewed as compromises. These went against the principles of in situ upgradation and community participation, which the Government is keen to promote. The strategy for housing for all should contain a mixed bag of approaches, versus only a single strategy which is being adopted by the cities.

Vote of Thanks-

The Ms. Aparna Das GIZ has expressed that GIZ is committed to keep working with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation in promoting in-situ up gradation of slums with minimum demolition. She said that the focus would be to emerge with process innovations and technologies which could be sustainable for the poor. She has thanked MHT and CEPT University for the fruitful partnership and all the participants for an active participation in the workshop. 

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Smart City Collocution

Ms. Bharati Bhonsale, Program Coordinator of MHT was one of the key note speaker at Smart city collocution organised by SAATH on December 30, 2014 in Ahmedabad. Ms. Bharti presented her views on affordable quality housing, cost efficient physical, social and institutional infrastructure such as adequate & quality water supply and access to Sanitation.

This address by Ms. Bharti was widely appreciated and her ideas got a great round of applause from the attendees.

MHT won the Urban Resilience Competition

Mahila Housing Trust (MHT) has won the Urban Resilience Competition hosted by USAID, UNDP, UNHabitat and UNGlobalPulse.It was held at Asia Urban Futures Workshop in Bangkok.

MHT has won this award for their initiative in Building Capacities of Slum Women to use Global Positioning Systems (GPS) for Democratic Urban Planning System. Dharmishta Chauhan,Strategic advisor at MHT was invited to give a presentation and accept the award at Bangkok,Thailand.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Mahila Housing Trust ( MHT )

Mahila Housing Trust (MHT) is an autonomous organization promoted by Self Employed Women Association (SEWA).It was formed in 1994 with the overall objective of improving the housing and infrastructure conditions of poor women in the informal sector. Within this general framework, MHT facilitates access to services such as shelter finance, legal advice, technical assistance, information on the housing market, and shelter-related income opportunities for poor working women.

MHT believes that all citizens, irrespective of their residential status, have a right of equal access to basic services and that they have a right to be treated uniformly and justfully by the service providers. Towards this, MHT focuses on enhancing civic engagement among citizens particularly slum residents, women and rural poor, through promotion of Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) and grassroot women’s leadership.