Winners and Finalists
Rural Health and Environment Programme
Aims and Objectives
This programme successfully demonstrates how rural communities can be involved in the sustainable and affordable development of their own village infrastructure and housing. It aims to enable a critical mass of poor and marginalised people in the rural areas of the state of Orissa to empower themselves to achieve a better quality of life characterised by:
Located on the eastern coastline of India, Orissa is one of the poorest states of the country. The average per capita income is 73 per cent of the national average, with 40 per cent of its population (about 17.5 million persons) living below the national poverty line. Almost 90 per cent of Orissa’s population live in rural areas, of whom less than 20 per cent have access to protected water and less than one per cent to a piped water supply. Less than five per cent have access to sanitation.
To date, Gram Vikas has supported the construction of 3,625 houses in 170 villages and another 767 houses are under construction. Loans of over Rs 70 million ($1.6 million) have been disbursed. For the villagers building and living in a permanent, disaster-proof, spacious and comfortable home is a matter of great pride and dignity.
With an area of 41 m² the houses are much larger than the typical rural dwellings of 10 m². They include two multi-use rooms, a kitchen and veranda. The cost of this dwelling is Rs. 45,000 ($1,034), with the household contributing 30 per cent of the cost through their labour and local materials and an initial deposit of Rs 3,000 – 5,000 ($69 – 115). The remaining 70 per cent is facilitated by Gram Vikas as a soft loan from the Housing Development and Finance Corporation, drawing on a credit line from KfW in Germany. The loan is repayable by the household over 15 years at a nine per cent interest rate. The repayments go into a revolving fund to finance work in additional villages. The housing programme is linked with livelihood promotion activities to improve the income and food security of the families. The financing of this housing programme has changed since it began in 1991, from a full grant approach to a full loan approach, with the entire cost of the house now being met by the family.
A range of construction materials are used for the dwellings, primarily stone or locally-made bricks. Local masons have been trained to use innovative masonry bonds which are 30 per cent more resource efficient than conventional brick masonry. Filler slab roofs save on concrete by substituting locally-available cheap filler material. The vertical shaft brick kiln has been developed for local use and is 30 per cent more effective than the commonly found brick kilns and 50 per cent more effective than the local clamps.
Environmental SustainabilityImprovements made in the infrastructure services, particularly sanitation and provision of water supply have resulted in general improvement of the physical environment. The materials used to construct houses are locally-produced and more resource-efficient. Social forestry programmes have also been successful in regenerating derelict areas of land.
Seed capital comes from external development agencies and in case this ever comes to cease, Gram Vikas keeps a reserve that it has collected from the biogas programme (implemented from 1983-93) and also through providing training to various NGOs and government officials. Increasingly government funding is also leveraged to facilitate the water and sanitation projects. A pre-requisite of the programme is that each family contributes an average of $25 (Rs 1,000) to a common fund known as the Corpus Fund. This gives a sense of enhanced village unity as all families are shareholders in the fund as well as providing financial security, as it can be used as collateral to raise loans from local banks.
Social SustainabilityInvolvement of the villagers in each stage of project implementation has led to increased community cohesion and the villagers are now more confident in taking part in the decision-making process. Villagers come together not only to raise the necessary finances for the project but also for joint decision-making, initially with respect to water facilities, but eventually for all other decisions within the community. Women have taken the lead in ensuring that the programme is completed on time and the project continues after Gram Vikas withdraws. A Village Executive Committee is formed legally and this entitles the village to access government funding for rural areas.
EvaluationA preliminary survey showed that the RHEP programme was gaining momentum due to several factors. One of these was the 'demonstration effect.' Villages adjacent to RHEP villages have expressed a desire to implement the programme in their own villages. A second factor was inter-village marriage, with more and more families wanting to marry their daughters into villages with drinking water and toilet facilities. It was however proving difficult to encourage girls to marry into a family that did not have these facilities. The demand from panchayats (elected village councils) and politicians was another factor in encouraging the transfer of the programme through the region.
As a result of the programme, there has also been a positive impact on health due to the eradication of water-borne diseases and an overall improvement in nutrition levels, since the easy availability of water enables green vegetables to be grown in the small gardens. A reduction in gynaecological and reproductive health problems has been noted now that women have a private space to bathe and a clean water supply. There has also been a drastic reduction in the incidence of skin diseases, again due to the provision of clean water.
On the 22nd of March 2006 Gram Vikas was awarded the Kyoto World Water Prize at the 4th World Water Forum held in Mexico. The prize aims to honour a distinguished individual or organisation whose grass-root level activities work towards addressing critical water needs of communities and regions.
Mr Joe Madiath
Berhampur - 760 002
We welcome your thoughts and ideas. If you comment as a guest, your email address will only be visible to the moderator and only used to filter spam. It won't be used in any other way and won't be shared with any third party. If you are interested in receiving information on the World Habitat Awards please sign up to our newsletter here.