On May 3, devastating Cyclone Fani made a landfall in Odisha. Precautionary measures and apt arrangements made by the state government beforehand helped in limiting the human casualties to a minimum. However, the real problem started after the disaster. With the infrastructure being reduced to the ground, all one can see is sad, depressed people with an uncertainty of future looming largely on their faces.
Fortunately, there have been individuals and organisations working to speed up the recovery and rehabilitation process. One such individual is 28-year-old S.B. Madan Raj, an architect who is building low-cost sustainable houses for disaster-affected areas.
“Travelled 1800 km On Bike To Reach Odisha”
Madan was working as an architect at a firm after completing his studies. However, it was November 2018 when the Gaja cyclone hit Tamil Nadu. “The sheer scale of the destruction caused was monumental, said to be worst in 50 years. Around the same time, a competition for building sustainable houses to be used in disaster-affected areas was organised. I participated and that’s how I was steered to this domain of making low-cost housing facilities in places hit by calamities,” Madan told The Logical Indian.
Madan then started his firm called ‘Madancheve studio’ which now specialises in this. “My team comprises of five architects. The model of house we build is called ‘Uraiyul’, it is a word which means house, taken from ancient Tamil text. We use locally available resources to build these houses. Uraiyul has three versions, varying in cost and the material used to build them.” Interestingly, Madan and his team make sure that the houses they are building just don’t act as a mere shelter but also suits their environment, culture and lifestyle.
Madan was in Nagapattinam district, making Uraiyuls for the rehabilitation of persons affected by Gaja cyclone. In May, he heard about cyclone Fani which had ravaged Odisha. “I was determined to help those affected. But I did not know anyone in Odisha. I then put out a word in my contacts to connect me to people in Odisha. I connected to a certain Sandhya whom I have not met in person till today. She, through Bharat Nayak of The Logical Indian, connected me to Goonj which has been actively working in Odisha,” says Madan.
Madan had to now travel to Odisha, but all modes of transportation like rail and flight were unavailable. “I had my bike and I decided to ride all the way to Odisha. That was that. I took the print of the Uraiyul plan, prepared a model and set out to Odisha from Nagapattinam.” Madan reached Bhubneshwar two days later, covering about 1800 km.
Madan, there, was introduced to Mr Dilip of Goonj. “We then visited villages along the Chilika lake. “I went around and met local villagers, fishermen and farmers. Given the deplorable situation there, I concluded that the version of Uraiyul houses which we normally build in Tamil Nadu was not possible here. In Nagapattinam, the version we were building had an area of about 350 sq ft, costing about Rs 2.5 lakh,” said Madan.
Madan then decided to build the second version, having the same facility that of a bathroom, toilet, bedroom and kitchen, but smaller in size, measuring 250 sq ft. “This version costs about Rs 60,000, which seemed doable,” he says. With the help of locals, in the common village ground, Madan used locally available material like bamboo, tin sheets and hay to construct these houses.
Madan recalls a very touching moment. “We went to a village in Puri district. When I reached there and the villagers got to know that we were here to build these houses for them, a group of youngsters came to me and told, out of desperation and helplessness, to teach them how to build houses. Mr Dilip translated it for me. Hearing this, I got very emotional and told them in broken Hindi, ‘come, brothers, we will all do it together’. Senior persons, children, youngsters, all came in large numbers to help me.”
“Plans To Build 500 Such Houses For Odisha”
“Just when I thought that situation in Tamil Nadu after Gaja cyclone was bad, I was introduced to the extremely wrecked state of Odisha. This experience has made me release that there is an apparent dearth of technical expertise that is required in the rehabilitation process in the aftermath of any natural calamity. I aim to build a team to provide just that, which can work with NGOs and governmental organisations and speed up the recovery process,” says Madan.
Madan feels that he needs to give back to society as a responsible architect. “I come from a lower-middle-class family in Salem, Tamil Nadu. I was fortunate that through scholarships I was able to pursue a course like architecture, which is considered to be very elite. I want to use my knowledge and skills to help society progress.” He plans to build 500 sustainable homes for Odisha. His story has reached far and he hopes to get funds for his initiative.
Madan spoke with extreme compassion and his voice echoed his determination to contribute his bit towards the society. The Logical Indian is moved and touched by Madan’s endeavour. We hope that he receives all the support he needs to reach his goal.
GOONJ is helping people with rehabilitation the way it has done in the past two decades. The Logical Indian is supporting Goonj in their relief work and will try to ensure that relief reaches to those affected. You are needed too!
Contribute here: https://goonj.org/cyclone-fani/
You can support Mr Madan in his endeavour. Contact him on [email protected]