Heavy rainfall across the Ladakh region and cloudbursts in some areas including Leh town, on August 5th and 6th 2010 resulted in large scale floods and landslides in the town and 52 villages across Leh district. The migrant settlements near Choglamsar and parts of Leh town were the worst hit in terms of loss of human life and damage to houses. The villages suffered extensive damage to agriculture land, either heavily silted or washed away with the standing crop. The government declared 248 people dead and 76 missing. More than 1400 hectares of agriculture land and 1200 houses were reported damaged in the flood and the loss estimated at 204 Crore Rupees (close to $ 50 million). Damage to public infrastructure such as roads, bridges etc. were also extensive. This was the worst natural disaster ever in the region.
LEDeG has been working for close to three decades on promoting sustainable development in the region. Despite a lack of prior experience working in post disaster situations, given the enormity of the disaster, we felt that LEDeG, and for that matter every local organisation, needed to pitch in to the relief and rehabilitation efforts spearheaded by the local administration.
We near-suspended most of our regular projects for weeks after the floods and dedicated all our energy in helping the administration with immediate relief activities and needs assessment studies in the worst affected Zanak Mane area near Choglamsar village. Towards promoting collaborations and avoiding duplicity, we actively supported a coordination mechanism amongst local NGOs active in the region and those that came in the wake of the floods. The inter agency coordination effort, spearheaded by Sphere-India, was based out of the LEDeG office, where regular meetings were organised to share field assessments and discuss intervention strategies. This coordination soon extended to one between the government and NGOs as well.
While we were still into the relief and coordination efforts, we realised the need to start planning on rehabilitation initiatives. Shelter came out as one of the sectors that needed the most immediate attention given the harsh winter that was just months away and also one that was quite skill and resource intensive. Given our vast experience in promoting people centred energy efficient houses using environment friendly local materials, we decided to take this as an opportunity of helping the people build back better.
Key features of the shelters built:
- A blend of Ladakhi architectural style with energy efficiency and disaster resistance features
- Passive Solar heating features (Solar walls and big windows to the south to trap sunlight and insulation in the walls, roof and floor) to reduce the dependence on biomass and fossil fuel during the long and severe winters
- Stone and RCC foundations, seismic bands and corner reinforcements to increase chances of withstanding earthquakes (given the region falls in a high seismic threat zone)
- Use of compressed stabilised earth blocks (93% mud and 7% cement under mechanical compression) in the walls up to the sill (windows) level to withstand damage from water logging