Across the globe, human beings deserve the right to live in a habitat that is safe and secure and that improves their quality of life while conserving the environment. Providing access to a safe and resilient habitat has always been a key area of work for the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) in India. This includes providing access to safe, resilient and sustainable housing and infrastructure development, as well as to essential key services, resource entitlements and opportunities for community development around the habitat.
In Gir-Somnath District, Gujarat, India, a cluster of villages around Chitravad is undergoing rapid transformation. With an expanding population, there are signs of environmental and infrastructure stress with added risk of man-animal conflict due to the proximity to Gir Sanctuary. Moreover, Chitravad lies in a moderately vulnerable seismic zone and faces frequent mild tremors due to seismic activity.
In response to these challenges, AKAH’s Rural Habitat Development Programme has provided safe community housing, access to water and safe sanitation, masons’ skill development and increased environmental awareness in these villages. Building on these efforts it has also engaged with the local community – including local Panchayat Raj institutions and focus groups – to gain a better, more accurate understanding of their concerns pertaining to basic services and amenities, aspirations for better housing options and the need for environment conservation. This has led to the creation of a comprehensive plan addressing improvement, development and mitigation measures for identified issues, prepared through extensive study and research of physical, technical, cultural, socio-economic and socio-political data and information.
Participatory planning with the local community has ensured that the Habitat Plan of Chitravad makes effective use of local resources to create and implement both short- and longer-term (five-year) development plans for the village.
This plan has contributed to reduced physical vulnerabilities due to flooding using technically appropriate plans to augment and restore natural drainage system, implement wastewater treatment systems, improve village infrastructure and reconstruct vulnerable structures with disaster-resilient technology. On the environmental sustainability front, several community and stakeholder awareness sessions have been conducted on climate change adaptation, adoption of renewable energy, protection of forest and green cover and appropriate technologies for solid waste management. Rainwater harvesting systems have been installed to harness floodwaters to recharge aquifers through borewells. To help overcome the challenges of social exclusion, communities have been encouraged to create inclusive social spaces within the village. Through these interventions, AKAH in India hopes to fulfil the aspirations expressed by the community in a sustainable manner.