Once In A 60 Lakh Debt, Now This Couple Is Reviving North-East Economies By Building Bamboo Houses
Sayantani Nath Telangana
August 9th, 2018 / 12:04 PM
When Bamboo House India started in 2006, the initiative did not receive a warm welcome in the country. Surviving harsh times, without even one proper meal a day, did not deter the founders from their aim to revive the overlooked economies of North-Eastern villages.
Fast forward to today, Bamboo House India is breathing a new life into the concrete veins of Hyderabad. Their innovative use of bamboo as a building material for homes is creating better employment opportunities for many marginal communities. They engineer beautiful modern-day bamboo houses equipped with electricity, internet and all other amenities for a comfortable living. Prashant Lingam, who co-founded Bamboo House India along with his wife Aruna Kappagantula, believes that bamboo is the future for eco-friendly living in India, a sounder option than cement, iron, plastic and even wood. In a heartfelt conversation with The Logical Indian, he opened up about the journey of Bamboo House India as a pioneer in reviving bamboo farming amidst intense struggle.
Inspiration Behind Bamboo House India
Way back in 2006, while looking for eco-friendly furniture for their home, the duo chanced upon some remote villages in the Indo-Bangladesh border where bamboo was the primary source of livelihood. The villagers were gifted with extraordinary skill sets, but due to lack of exposure, they were surviving on a paltry income of 20-30 rupees per day mainly by making baskets. In fact, a majority of them were migrating to nearby towns.
Prashant and Aruna were already aware that bamboo had gained global popularity as an eco-friendly construction material. That was when they decided to create an urban market for bamboo which would provide a decent livelihood to these tribal communities as well as promote environmentally sustainable bamboo houses to the public.
Not Giving Up Through Years of Struggle
Soon after Prashant and Aruna embarked on their bamboo journey with a noble aim in mind, they had to face the harsh reality – nobody is ready to even think of a bamboo house. “Without a single contract in the first three years, we incurred an enormous debt of 60 lakhs,” shares Prashant. With deteriorating health and after the unfortunate deaths of their closest family members, they even considered committing suicide as a way out.
For a last try, Aruna sold all her jewellery and pledged all their assets. Finally, a school principal in Hyderabad approached them to build a bamboo penthouse atop a building. Their excellent craftsmanship in this project attracted others, and the company has not looked back ever since.
Creating Jobs For Thousands
Since around 65% of bamboo production in India is concentrated in the North-East, Bamboo House India procures their raw material from the obscure hamlets of Assam, Tripura and Meghalaya. In a rural family, the male members are engaged in the cutting and collection of bamboo stems while the women weave them into bamboo mats by hand. After factory treatment, these are transported to Hyderabad where builders, carpenters and electricians are employed for the final construction of a cosy bamboo house. “Overall, a single bamboo house generates decently paid job opportunities for around a hundred people,” Prashant Lingam tells us.
Lack of proper roads and telecommunication in the North-East poses a tremendous logistical challenge for the organisation. The transportation of raw bamboo becomes inherently difficult during the torrential monsoon rains. Despite all these, Bamboo House India has successfully maintained their iron determination in rehabilitating these tribal economies.
Bamboo handicrafts have a high demand for interior decoration. “We are also connecting these handicraft artisans with buyers in India and the USA,” Prashant mentions, explaining to us how Bamboo House is employing new workers every day.
Environmental Advantages of Bamboo
From generating 35% more oxygen than a forest cover of equal area, to a substantial water retention capacity, bamboo has endless benefits. Adaptable to all weather conditions, a bamboo plantation has a life cycle of around 48 years. Bamboo attains complete growth within only 3 years and can be harvested again and again. This is why opting for bamboo houses is way more economical over wood because a tree takes a minimum 25 years to mature.
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A rooftop bamboo house
The Present And The Future
Solely due to their sincere efforts, today, more people are recognising bamboo as a sustainable material for terrace houses, small cottages and even a large farmhouse in Tamil Nadu with a budget of 2 crores.
At present, the projects of Bamboo House India are mainly concentrated in and around Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and also Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra to some extent. Their unique efforts have received international recognition. You will find a beautiful bamboo gazebo at the US consulate in Hyderabad and a boathouse in the Google Office – some widely acclaimed projects by Bamboo House India. Apart from bamboo, they are also focusing on upcycling scrap materials and plastic, providing a new horde of opportunities for ragpickers.
Even today, only 10% of the enquiries get converted into contracts for bamboo houses. “We are trying to create more awareness by delivering lectures at schools and colleges and appealing to the youth.” The founders are working hard day and night to make India realise how bamboo can be a permanent solution to our environmental woes.
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Written by : Sayantani Nath
Edited by : Poorbita Bagchi