Solid Houses Built By Habitat And Partner Prevent Further Damage By Fire In India Slum Colony

Two Habitat Houses Withstood Fire And Shielded 600 Temporary Shelters

DELHI, 22nd February 2007: A recent fire that blazed through Bawana, a slum relocation colony about 40 km from the Indian capital Delhi, would have caused more extensive damage if not for Habitat houses in its midst.

Dismal: The homeless faced a tough winter after a recent fire destroyed about 300 temporary shelters in Bawana.

Solid: Two concrete and brick houses built by Habitat and Chetanalaya, like this shown here, helped prevent the spread of the fire.

The fire on the night of 9th February, which took the life of a three-year-old girl, burnt down 300 temporary shelters made of thatch and polythene sheets. But another 600 temporary huts were spared because two brick and concrete Habitat houses stopped the fire in its destructive trail. The two Habitat houses were not damaged.

The Bawana colony contains 7,000 dwellings of which 29 houses were built by Habitat for Humanity in partnership with Catholic non-governmental organization Chetanalaya. In a project inaugurated in August 2006, Habitat and Chetanalaya were to build 150 houses for former slum dwellers in Bawana. A social development wing of the Catholic Archdiocese of Delhi, Chetanalaya has been working in the slums and resettlement colonies of Delhi and the northern Haryana state during the past 35 years.

When the latest blaze hit Bawana, its residents had barely recovered from the effects of the fire on 6th December 2006 that wiped out more than 280 temporary huts. Needing warmth and lacking food, those made homeless now face a harsh winter. The fire, reportedly due to a short circuit, destroyed people’s means of transportation and livelihood such as scooters and pushcarts. Poultry and other livestock also perished, extinguishing the hope of income generation and food. What little savings some residents had went up in smoke, as did important land title documents.

When staff from the Habitat Resource Center in Delhi visited Bawana soon after the fire, some resilient residents were starting to rebuild their shelters with salvaged bamboo mats and plastic. Perhaps the sight of the solid Habitat houses will encourage more Bawana residents to partner with Habitat to build simple, safe and decent homes.