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Central Region Yatra – a Report

by amar last modified 2009-12-14 18:37

Lok Awaas Yatra

Central Region Yatra – a Report

  1. Introduction to LAY

Lok Awaas Yatra is a nationwide cross-Learning and exposure trip on sustainable habitat development initiated by basin-South Asia Regional Knowledge Platform. The Yatra is specifically designed for local governance institutions and grassroots implementing agencies to learn from innovative models of rural habitat development across the different geo-climatic regions in India. The overall objective of the yatra is to generate awareness and disseminate possible strategies for Safe and Sustainable Habitat Development through dialogue, networking and knowledge sharing.

Rural India is confronted with difficult choices. On one hand, there are energy intensive blueprints of village development that promise modern amenities but at the expense of natural resources while on the other hand there is status quo characterized by poor living conditions, little access to basic services and meagre earnings.

Lok Awas Yatra is a journey that inspires a more pragmatic approach to habitat development. It celebrates the achievements of select initiatives on rural habitat development in India that have improved the quality of life of the people without compromising on the environment. It will help build a common understanding of the practical underpinnings of sustainable habitat development from a policy perspective and contribute to a more enabling policy environment for people centred sustainable habitat development.

Design of LAY

LAY has been designed as a series of five yatras in five regions of the country. Each sub-yatra has three trails each taking 30 participants to visit about six good practice projects. These projects have been identified on the basis of demonstration of appropriate construction technologies, institutional systems, sanitation and water supply mechanisms suitable for rural areas, livelihood initiatives in the habitat sector etc. The six key themes of the LAY are:
  • Low Carbon Building Technologies
  • Habitat Infrastructure including energy
  • Water and Sanitation Solutions for Rural Habitat
  • Habitat Based Livelihoods
  • Social Housing Delivery
  • Disaster Risk Reduction
Each regional Yatra is designed to culminate in a Regional Seminar which will identify key enablers for enhancing the quality of rural habitats in the region. The five sub-yatras (with each of their 3 trails) will culminate as a ‘lok awaas karmi sammelan’ at the national level by the end of 2010.

  1. Central Region Lok Awaas Yatra
sThe first of the series of Yatras covered the Central Region from 8th-12th September 2009. The yatra comprised of three trails each anchored by a locally active NGO as follows:

Marathwada trail- anchored by Sahyog Nirmithee based in Latur. The trail covered districts of Latur, Osmanabad, Ahmednagar and Aurangabad. This trail had a strong focus on habitat processes, especially understanding the potential contribution that can be made by different stakeholder groups in improving the living conditions in rural India.

Vidarbha trail- anchored by Centre of Science for Villages, in Wardha. The trail covered districts of Wardha and Nagpur. This trail had a strong focus on ‘alternate’ and energy efficient habitat technologies and their application.

Bundelkhand trail- anchored by Development Alternatives in Jhansi. The trail covered districts of Jhansi, Datia and Tikamgarh. This trail included projects that demonstrated learning on both- alternate technologies as well as the process of their application with different stakeholders in a catalytic role. 

III.    Key highlights of the yatra

•    The Centre of Science of Villages (CSV), set up in 1977, is dedicated to serve as a technology transfer centre for reviving the rural economy. The two campuses of CSV (Kumarappapuram and Dattapur) in Wardha showcase a wide variety of alternate technologies for rural scenario both through models as well as practical application in their own facilities. Low carbon construction technologies making use of the locally available resources comprise the key area of their work. CSV promotes ecological housing making use of the mud and bamboo as construction material. The other areas of work include solutions for home sanitation, school sanitation, solid and liquid waste management, water management and rain water harvesting, and non conventional energy (chulha and Bio-mass). The India Song Project as discussed later demonstrates the application of various alternate technologies developed by the CSV.

•    The Sillari Eco Tourism Complex, of the Forest Department, in the Pench National Park also showcases the use of low carbon technologies for construction. All the cottages in the complex utilize technologies developed by CSV. The roof is made of conical clay tiles, walls are made of mud blocks. The furniture is made of bamboo sourced locally.

•    The Vertical Shaft Brick Kiln at TARA is an example of eco-kiln, energy efficient, and environment friendly technology for firing clay bricks.  The technology is particularly suited for brick manufacture for small scale and decentralized production units.  The VSBK technology was brought to Datia in 1996 from China and through intensive research indigenized to Indian conditions.  The TARAgram at Datia houses the first such kiln which was then replicated to four different climatic zones of India and now has spread across the country with over 200 kilns in operation. Besides reducing energy costs, VSBK offers significant economic advantage to the entrepreneur.

•    The new DA-TARAgram campus at Pahuj, introduces alternatives for construction of flat roofs for Bundelkhand. These include pre-cast brick arch panels, RCC planks and joists, ferro-cement roofing channels and waste brick funicular shells along with the traditional practice of stone slabs. A team of 30 masons were trained at site during the construction of roofs in this campus. The systems are cost-effective, aesthetic and besides being more durable than the common practice of Reinforced Cement Concrete (RCC), also support skilled employment through manufacture of precast roofing elements. The Pahuj campus also demonstrates energy efficient and water saving farming practices along with solar pumping, drip irrigation and agro-forestry models.


•    Rampura Solar Village in Jhansi district of Uttar Pradesh demonstrates a village habitat development model with emphasis on renewable energy. The 60 solar panels giving power to 24 batteries of approximately 9 KW each provide clean and reliable electricity to 150 households as well as to local micro-industry. The plants are however sized so that the villagers may also utilize the electricity to improve existing, or establish new income generating activities (flour mill, water pumping and distribution, sewing machines, cash crop drying etc). The villagers pay for the electricity. The revenues generated cover operations and maintenance costs, as well as the replacement of batteries and other components. The electricity tariffs are based on what villagers currently pay for different sources of energy, such as kerosene and diesel. A Village Energy Committee (VEC) has also been established with representatives from the community and experts. This has enhanced the knowledge and skills of rural people in energy management.


•    Karvanji village and Bornadiwadi village in Osamabad district of Maharashtra are interesting examples of showing how government schemes can actually benefit the local people. The water and sanitation problems of these villages have been solved through leveraging the Jal Swarajya Scheme of the Government of Maharashtra and the Total Sanitation Program of the Government of India. The key to success lies in the participatory approach to programme development, implementation and maintenance. Links with other ongoing programmes were reinforced. Bornadiwadi village is now hundred per cent open defecation free and there is piped water distribution system in Karvanji village. Other activities like watershed management and use of renewable energies have also been undertaken. 

•    The case of Bahirgaon in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra shows how sanitation can be used as an entry point for larger objectives of village development. The Gram Panchayat headed by a strong leader played an important role in the process by establishing the goal of turning Bahirgaon into an ‘open defecation free’ village. It also ensured strong community participation in the projects. Over a period of six years the village established systems of water treatment and supply, waste management, power supply and other services in an environmental friendly and sustainable manner. 

•    Nagapur, Tulzhapur and Khadka Madka are among those few villages in Wardha district that are completely open defecation free with each house having a toilet within the premises. This has been made possible by the joint efforts of the Wardha Medical College, Bajaj Foundation, CSV and the community. The villages also showcase the use of cost effective and environmentally responsive technologies for toilet construction. The toilet superstructure is made of reinforced brick concrete and ferrocement. It is a twin pit toilet with a modified pan design which reduces the water requirement for flushing. Each house in the village has a toilet. These are financed by the Bajaj foundation. People contribute 10% of the amount as well as contribute as labour during the construction process.

•    The case of Gopalpura in Jhansi district of Uttar Pradesh showcases a significant step towards appropriate solutions in meeting the quantitative and qualitative requirements of basic services like water and sanitation in rural areas of Bundelkhand. It is a result of a collaborative effort by Development Alternatives and The Arghyam Foundation. Various initiatives like piped water supply system, upgraded hand pumps, water troughs for animals, household latrines, personal hygiene, village roads with drainage, plantation, etc. have been taken up through people’s participation in decision making and management. An integrated resource management approach has been implemented through the institution of Samagra Jal Vikas Samiti.


•    The fly ash brick making enterprise near Khaparkheda Power Plant in Nagpur shows how sustainable livelihoods can be created by utilizing industrial waste. Fly ash from the Khaparkheda power plant is used by women self help group to make bricks. This is a win-win situation wherein the hazardous waste is being managed and livelihood opportunities are created in the habitat sector. The project is a good demonstration of women’s empowerment through livelihood creation.


•    The India Song Project at Kanhapur village in Wardha district of Maharashtra is an example of social housing wherein few houseless families from the Kanhapur village have been provided with houses and basic infrastructure by the CSV. The underlying objective was to demonstrate all the alternate technologies at one place and develop a model village and thereafter, understand the post-occupancy opinions about the technologies. The village demonstrates the use of alternate technologies for house construction integrated with provision of chulha, rain water harvesting and sanitation systems. The village also has a bio-gas plant. This project is financed by Wardha Development Agency.


•    Malumbra village in the Latur district showcases the use of appropriate technology using local materials for disaster safe reconstruction of earthquake affected areas. A model house was built using Laurie Baker technologies for demonstrating an alternate approach in the area. A composite wall of reused stone and burnt bricks with necessary reinforcement bands for earthquake safety was proposed.  Framed structure of steel pipes in walls and tin roofing sheets supported by MS angles were used. Old door and window frames were reused. The approach to design and selection of materials was to develop an amalgamation of earthquake resistant features with traditional – indigenous practice making use of the locally available materials. The entire reconstruction process was owner-driven, including the village planning.

IV.    What we learnt!

The Yatra was a rich learning experience for all the participants irrespective of their work background. Key lessons discussed at the Yatra were:

•    There is need for technological solutions that- solve the specific habitat issue, are environment friendly, are culturally and climatologically appropriate, use local resources and provide people with opportunity to earn a living. Yatra karmis from the Bundelkhand trail came back with questions relating to generation of power at the village level. Also, interest was expressed in production of building material by village based Self Help Groups.

•    Need for delivery channels was expressed that strengthen locally existing institutions, build on local skills, understand the solution well enough to participate in implementation, and will be able to operate and maintain the solution, and is transparent enough to be monitored by all.

•    A major concern that was highlighted was the need for local capacity to carry the solution forward such that: People understand the solution(s) and why it has been chosen, people feel empowered by the process of engagement, people feel responsible towards participating in the execution of the solution, local skills are enhanced, local skills are available for maintenance of the system.

•    It was learnt that continuous engagement with village communities is necessary for sustained change and that new initiatives actually help sustain older initiatives when the two are linked.  Village habitat development benefits when interventions move out of a ‘project’ / programme mode to integrated village development process with linkages with other aspects such as livelihoods. Village life is not sectorally divided and there is a clear and visible link between habitat development and natural resource based livelihoods of the people. 
•    To this end the Government schemes are adequately leveraged only when there is active and aware local Panchayat leadership. The base of all successful initiatives are community collectives  / collective strength of communities and the role of local leadership in facilitating long term development and ensuring the commitment of the village as a whole is crucial.

•    Another important learning that was shared during the course of the proceedings was that Pilots for sustainable habitat infrastructure need to be encouraged and taken to scale and partnership between corporate sector, civil society and community is a viable route for service delivery. 


    Low Carbon Construction Technology at Eco-kiln, TARA Campus at Pahuj and TARAgram

33and basic support such as land etc  from the government and policies to support new entrepreneurs  and encourage sustainable initiatives. In addition, there is need for highlighting the true cost of unsustainable infrastructure and service provision for correct comparison between sustainable and unsustainable practices.

•    Also, the need for an entity that connects and links different actors was expressed. This entity should bridge information / knowledge, finance and capacity gaps and MUST have an integrated approach.

•    Another learning shared was that village communities are willing and able to pay for the services they get – misplaced subsidies are a sure way of preventing people from taking responsibility. Incentives are more useful than subsidy. It was also felt that current approaches are straight jacketed within schemes and convergence between schemes is rarely attempted – where it is done, success is easily achieved.


V      What we can do in our villages
(Hamare gaon mein kya ho sakta hai)

Participants mentioned that as a part of the LAY, they had been able to see villages that till a few years ago did not have much development, but have as a result of collective action and hard work been able to transform their villages into ideal villages.

55Bundelkhand trail

The group felt the need for aforestation as a people’s movement. Administrative and technical support will be sought, administrative from the Panchayat and technical from Taragram Pahuj. Community committees will be formed in order to ensure the  safety of the saplings planted.
The group from Vidarbha shared their experiences in arriving at the suitable roofing materials in view of a gradual depletion of thatch, harsh climatic conditions and cost considerations. Features of MCR tile scoring over G.I sheet were also listed by the group. The group shared their experience wherein they felt that Micro Concrete Roofing (MCR) tiles were one of the most suitable options in Vidarbha. While there is need to set up new enterprises, there is also need to revive micro-enterprises, for which external expertise must be sought. Community SHGs should be re-oriented and government technical institutes and polytechnics could be the demonstration centers. Greater support is needed for spreading greater awareness on MCR among the rural population.
The group proposed that the work should be carried out through NGOs, with business plan in place and market feasibility conducted. In doing so technical skills and handholding support will be required by the SHG and mason groups. The group also proposed savings and thrift by the SHG as a preferred route to raise the initial capital, banks only if really necessary.

Marathwada trail

The group expressed the need for village to be self-reliant and not be dependent on cities. Infrastructure needs of the villages were identified. The group felt that established technologies relating to water supply, agriculture, should be made use of more widely.  In addition, agro based industries should be set up with market linkages in order to improve financial capacities at the village level. Government funding available under the following schemes should be accessed namely Nirmal gram, Dalit basti Sudhar, Ambedkar Scheme, Sant Gadge Baba Gram Sayatu Scheme. In addition, government funding for income generation such as NREGS should be used. Government funds should also be unlocked within IAY, MLA/MP Funds, IWLD and Watershed Program.

V    Regional Seminar in  Bhopal - key highlights

The seminar in Bhopal, the last leg of the Central Region Lok Awaas Yatra provided an opportunity for all the participants to exchange learning between different trails as well as consolidate lessons. The seminar was also attended by Ms. Sybille Suter, Country Director, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Mr. M N Buch, Chairman NCHSE Bhopal, Mr. Binoy Aacharya, Founder, Director Unnati, Dr. Veena Joshi, Sr. Advisor, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and Mr. George Varughese, President, Development Alternatives. Mr. Pradeep Jain, Hon’ble Minister of State for Rural Development expressed the commitment of his Ministry to support learning and adoption of low energy building practices through a written message (See Annex 1)

The Seminar began with an introduction to Lok Awaas Yatra, followed by an overview on what was seen and learnt throughout the entire journey.

Through the various presentation at the Seminar, the following key points emerged:

•    Indigenous knowledge can provide meaningful lessons for low carbon development paths.
•    Women as people who manage households would have a key role in Climate Change Adaptation at the household level.  
•    It has now become very important to focus on technology for habitat development as the world is confronted by Climate Change. Use of tried and tested, traditional materials like lime and surkhi in place of cement, should be encouraged. India is blessed with sun; we should strive for making use of solar energy in all possible ways.
•    Low energy materials are very often also cost-effective from a user perspective.
•    ‘Habitat’ development including housing and basic infrastructure should be the minimum unit of intervention for improving quality of life in villages.
•    Habitat and livelihoods are interdependent. This link holds the potential for mainstreaming
•    People’s technology should be encouraged and complemented with development of standards, codes and schedule of rate.
•    PRIs need to be strengthened by directly allocating the resources to them and giving them necessary decision making powers; for this to work effectively capacity of the panchayats should be enhanced.
•    There is need to develop a large number of low carbon habitat technology solutions that are accepted by the people and are environment friendly.

In all, the seminar was a motivating and enlightening event for all the participants and it is hoped that through such initiatives the housing movement in India is strengthened towards low carbon growth path.

VI    Next steps and the way forward

The Central Region Yatra was an encouraging experience. It managed to achieve, to a large extent all the objectives that were set out for this Yatra as the first one in the series.
For the future, it is planned that:
i.    Western Region Yatra  would be conducted around early December 2009
ii.    The Yatras would be used as an opportunity to consolidate scientific knowledge, learning and practical insights on low carbon habitat development solutions.
iii.    Efforts towards influencing state habitat policies would be strengthened through a closer dialogue with state actors.

Annexure 1

Message from Mr Pradeep Jain, Hon’ble Minister of State for Rural Development

basin South Asia 2009 Designed and supported by OneWorld South Asia