One more step towards sustainable shelters

Abhishek Mishra has been working independently and also with SanoChanno initiative by Maxmedia which is a step forward towards making sustainable shelters for those affected by Nepal Earthquake. He knew he had a part to play. And he did play that part, quite brilliantly.

Sustainable Shelter Project

“It took us a good month after the earthquake to get together and start working on a sustainable shelter project. There are around 40 people from the organization who were involved.” – Abhishek

Why Sustainable Shelter Project?

“The choice was made upon discussion with the staff at the office whose homes in the villages were destroyed. It was necessary to have someone in the know so we could know how much funding we would need to fulfill their need. We chose sustainable shelters because that seemed most appropriate after the need for food, water and temporary settlement had been fulfilled.”– Abhishek

Moment of Discovery

What was it like going in the field? Do you see a different side of the country? A different side of yourself, perhaps?

“Relief work is something that will probably always exist and the wants and needs of those affected are sometimes not very clear. I am proud to be a part of a generation that took the initiative at such a catastrophic time and helped people they had never met and never known. The spirit of camaraderie in Nepal is so strong.” – Abhishek

Stories that stay

And there are plenty. The overwhelming sense of self and that of our surrounding has not left us yet and it has been a month. Stories are memories that are embedded in our heads to stay. What is Abhishek’s story?

“An initial step taken by us was working in clearing out the debris at Swayambunath. It required special permission as it is a heritage site and there were fears of idols being stolen. We got the permission and helped clear out some of the clutter and the scene there was one of destitution. Not only the chaitya on the side being broken, but the buildings there were in very bad shape.” – Abhishek

Taking more than experience out of it

If we had to do the relief work again, how could we have made better decisions and bigger impact? We wanted Abhishek to share his experience.

“Better research, more fundraising so we could help adjacent villages as well.” – Abhishek

Work among teams

Coordination seems to be working for many teams that I talked to. The team that Abhishek is affiliated to has its own agenda and way of working.

“There hasn’t been much coordination with other teams so far. It is the organization working on its own and using its resources and manpower. We did meet the local police in places who were cordial.” – Abhishek

Realizing what is important

There is better clarity as to what to do in case of a natural disaster. For those who might be affected in the future, we have knowledge to impart for survival.

“There is another initiative called You Hike They Rise that focuses on the tourism of Nepal. It is a step towards galvanizing the perception of Nepal being a safe tourist destination and needs to be backed as tourism envelopes a huge chunk of the national income. For Nepal to get back on its feet, we need for it to flourish.” – Abhishek

As I thanked @abhishek for his inputs, I couldn’t help but get intrigued at the prospect of talking to You Hike They Rise. Concentrating on tourism looks like the best way to move forward. I hope we can tell you their story soon. Until then, keep making a difference!


Hello Abhishek

@abhishek Hello & a warm welcome! Happy to hear you had the time to share your story! I hope it did not take to long and will turn out to be worthwhile for you.

I’ve done some amateur (I’m an engineer but in another field) research on rebuilding for this thread:

Perhaps the Holcim foundation would also be worth a telephone call or two - you did mention that research was one of the problems. Of course financing pretty much always is another one - but even that is a rather complex matter. More money does not always equal better overall long term outcomes.

On a side note I’d have a tiny question: How prevalent is it that people rationalize the earthquake through the will of some higher power - and thus feel “Nepal or individuals are somehow at fault” for what happened? I’ve heard that a little bit through our media, but I expect this is exaggerated.

In any case my argument would be that the earthquakes (as horrible as they were) could have been much, MUCH worse (e.g. during night = 5x loss of life, during another season = probably much more hardship already, not two “small” ones but one big = far more structures destroyed or severely damaged). On the individual level the fact that the areas of tectonic activity can’t be correlated with “more sinners living there” would hopefully take care of that.

If you have any questions I might be able to help with I’ll see what I can do.

About the Higher Power

It is natural for believers to ascribe every life event to a higher power. This connection with the higher power though is too vague among people I’ve met for any fault or sins to be associated with the disaster. Sure several people feel the survivor’s guilt. But that guilt does not amount to thinking of one’s own faults, rather a profound sense of loss. There have been reports of some Christian evangelists blaming gay people and other “immoral” activities for the earthquake, but these are rare and have slowed down after the backlash against the evangelists’ initial position. Some Hindu activists also blamed all the animal sacrifice, some blamed the dearth of animal sacrifice. These, however, were positions too rare to find any traction among mainstream media or the general population. I haven’t heard anything as ridiculous as Maulana Fazlur Rehman claiming women wearing jeans caused these earthquakes; I am glad he is not a Nepali citizen and influences almost none here. Overall, I don’t think the repercussion of sins hypothesis has garnered any major attention among the general public.

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Good to hear most people are not searching for a scapegoat

That is a very good basis for effective reconstruction I think. I’m sure lots of things went wrong, and there may be some amount of blame that can be assigned with some confidence - but I think it is far better to take a note with some detail for later. Then it can be revisited at a time when the priorities have normalized a little. Perhaps after the next harvest or so. Best wishes to you all!

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Thank you so much,

and I am quite overwhelmed with the responses here :slight_smile:

To answer your question, the notion of a higher power’s will being responsible for the disaster is heard and disregarded with a laugh. While that doesn’t mean most of us here haven’t at some point prayed for it (aftershocks) to stop, rational thinking and the dissemination between faith and blind faith is clear to see.  And it’s encouraging, to see that people haven’t encouraged the religious undertones that will only cause social disarray.

Great story!

Thanks for the inspiration, @Abhinav_Thakur

I have a friend from Romania who has been doing relief work in Dhading and is now desperate to secure roofs to the people ahead of the monsoon season. He wants to find an alternative to transfer funds his organisation raised to the folks there to buy these rooftops (just as yours I think) which people would then assemble on wood sticks as pillars. It seems they cost about a hundred bucks a piece and there is no way to find cheaper alternatives, less import them. Is your supplier a local one and how much do they cost?

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@Noemi I think you might be looking for @Abhishek. :slight_smile:


@noemi I’ll get back to you with the details soon

Shelter Details

So here are the details of the supplier that we used, hope its of help to your friends here :slight_smile:

Siddhartha Steel, Gwarko Chowk

Contact Person: Pawan

Contact No: 9801137867, 5202771


Will pass these along, and sorry for the name confusion :slight_smile:

Very nice meeting you virtually @abhishek and thanks again for the inspiration!

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Coordinating with Project Ek

Hi @abhishek, it was great reading your part of the story and I guess for individuals trying to make a difference, this has been one of the common experiences. I recently met someone from Project Ek, which is also an initiative on temporary shelters. You can go through their page, and maybe there is a possibility to coordinate, and collaborate efforts?

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Will do :slight_smile:

Thank you,

Also I had a query about this doming of the steel sheets; doesn’t it make it incredibly hot inside because now 2 sides and the top have been rounded with steel? I know summer is almost out and monsoon is at the door, but I wanted to ask if an architecture such as this makes it harder for people to stay inside on a hot summer’s day…

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My two cents

@abhishek, thank you for your work on the shelters, much needed right now before monsoon. For networking and collaboration: Nepal Rises also poduces the kits for these half-round shelters, as far as I can tell from their Facebook feed.

I think I can answer a part of your question because I’ve been in one of these rounded TMS shelters on a hot summer day two weeks ago in Bhorle, Rasuwa. Yes, it gets very hot inside them (even before the front and back walls were built). However people from Bhorle got this idea to cover the metal roof with pine needles. We fastened pieces of rope running parallel along the roof in ca. 30 cm distance each, and then put bunches of pine needles under them. Took about 1.5 hours per shelter with 2-3 people, and it made it immediately a lot cooler inside:

I guess this effect is the same as the “tropical roof” thing where a tarp or piece of fabric is covering the real roof with 20-30 cm distance to it. The sun rays are absorbed by this tropical roof, or in our case by the pine needles, and not by the real roof. So air can carry the heat away to the outside, rather than heating up the roof and the inside.

Krishna, our host in Kathmandu at the moment, also said that spraying water on the pine needles would help even more (evaporative cooling), but also said it’s a lot of work. Maybe for the hottest days. He also said that making them with a higher roof would help a lot, since the heat would then accumulate above head level. But in any case: yes heat is a problem, but there are things that can be done against it.


Goes to show how human adaptation has always been key to the survival of the species; The concept of using nature around you to act as coolants for your shelter being one of many. Thank you for sharing this important bit of detail @matthias

I think that was the right ones for you

Technically you’d certainly be in their focus group - though I’m afraid you are not “French enough”. If you can dig up a few local that can speak French reasonably well - I’d say you have a decent chance. It is often not because they don’t want to help - but because they really have difficulty scrounging enough language talent together in the pools they can fish in. It would probably also be such a novelty that would really pay attention (and it is something ER should be able to pull off - if anyone can…).

The just got a new director - usually a good time to knock on the door with new concepts…

Evap cooling

You want to get the water on the metal, not so much the pine needles. If it evaporates from the metal (heat conductor) - that will be directly felt in the shelter. Much more efficient.

It may be possible to cut a small slit in the top and pry it open just a little bit. That could be used for ventilation. But if you have a creek or so for water I would use that. Better not damage the sheet if you don’t have to.

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You could also add

A little extra dirt (relatively fine sand) under the pine. That can hold the water better so it does not run off directly. There is an organization that work in sustainable shelter design on the conference I’m on today. Should I try to give a direct contact (e.g. phone number to them and see what happens)?