Chennai: December 2015 – several parts of Chennai and its suburbs were flooded. One among the affected communities was Periyar Samathuvapuram in Mudichur. Several families became homeless overnight. Fast forward three years, now, 20 families have a concrete house to live in thanks to Bhoomika Trust, a Chennai-based NGO that works towards disaster management in several places in India.
As part of the trust’s 100 Resilient Homes project, they have delivered 105 homes for deserving families that bore the wrath of the 2015 floods.
Senkazhuneer Oodai, Manjankaranai, Arumbakkam (Poondi), Seniyarmedu (Acharapakkam), Melkanagampattu and Periyar Samathuvapuram (Mudichur) are the places the trustees and volunteers handpicked places to carry out the project.
Due to the severe damage caused by the floods, the families were rescued by National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and sheltered in government relief camps. Volunteers and trustees of Bhoomika visited the place and were providing support to return to normal. Going beyond the call of duty, after the relief work, the trust began working towards rehabilitating the families.
“As part of the rehabilitation programme, we decided to repair schools and build schools and housing facilities for the needy and we created ‘100 Resilient Homes’ project between 2017 and 2019. We went around the affected areas after some kind of normalcy returned and chose six places,” said one of the trustees, Aruna Subramaniam.
At Periyar Samathuvapuram, the team saw damaged huts, fallen thatched roofs. Sarees were tied around poles to be converted into temporary dwelling places. So, they decided to housing was a priority. “Even if floods happen, they will still have a shelter to live in,” Aruna added.
To ensure that there are no legal problems, the team verified the entitlements and sought permission from the local body.
Speaking about the challenges, she said, “When they relocate, the government would have given them a slip, we have to ascertain that and check if they have the patta. And some of them sell their entitlements and we had to ensure that they are the original allottees”
“In cases where they were relocated several years ago, two units would have come in the same place for sheltering their relative. The families asked us to build houses for them, too. To rule out all such problems, we held numerous discussions with the community and explained that we are providing it for only the really needy as funds were limited. We made the communities recommend the ones in dire need of assistance and we finalised the beneficiaries,” she continued.
To bring in the community, Bhoomika involved the beneficiaries while building the housing units. “In some areas like Poondi, vehicles cannot enter and the local community helped us transport the materials.”
Giving another instance, Aruna said, “We stayed with the families in Manamathi to understand the secondary problems. The team and the residents together desilted and deepened the well and rejuvenated the well for storing water.”
In addition to meeting the infrastructural needs, the trust has helped in livehood opportunities. It also set up evening classes in each place for the welfare of children. “The teacher is identified from the community to help the students with learning and homework after school hours,” the trustee added.
Now that the State and Central governments have enough funds to provide housing facility for the homeless, the trust plans to review the resilient houses project and start addressing the secondary problems.
“There is a village beyond Manamathi where the residents are struggling for water and toilet facilities. We are brainstorming about it and will decide on the course of action,” says Aruna.
They also did exceptional work in the towns that were ravaged by Cyclone Gaja last year.
|WALKING THE TALK|
|“Soon after the 2015 floods, many people volunteered to help us. Our details were noted down and they promised to build our damaged houses. However, nothing happened after that. Only Bhoomika Trust lived up to their words,” said B Murugan, a 32-year-old daily wage earner from Periyar Samathuvapuram in Mudichur.|