08 build a resilient home: when the bamboo house of Tyar takes root in Nepal

Published: 2024-06-20 Author: mysheen
Last Updated: 2024/06/20, 08 build a resilient home: when the bamboo house of Tyar takes root in Nepal


/ Liu Yijun (Associate Research fellow, National disaster Prevention and Rescue Science and Technology Center)

In order to assist a group of flood victims who have been forgotten by society, the Atayal from Taiwan have traveled thousands of miles to the abject poverty settlements in Nepal to integrate the traditional wisdom and local knowledge of the indigenous people to build flood-resistant, earthquake-resistant and climate-adapted houses.

The threat of climate risk: the dilemma of survival under repeated displacement

The Ban-Khate settlement, located in the plains of southwestern Nepal near the Indian border, is shrouded in a hot and humid smell. The low adjoining houses are located in front of a dense forest, with cracks of different lengths extending arbitrarily on the ash walls, and sloping window frames and half-collapsed roofs that look even more dilapidated in the sun.

Here, the passage of time is particularly slow, with several cattle and sheep bowing their heads in the poor fields grazing; the elderly sitting alone under the eaves, their eyes looking bleak and indifferent to the front; and swaddling women gathering in the shade to chat.

This is a settlement of traditional village / street singers (Gandarbha or Gainey) and blacksmiths (Kami), belonging to the lowest class "untouchable" under the deep-rooted caste system of Nepalese society. This ethnic group originally lived in the hills around the Banke District district, but had to move to neighboring towns to make a living because repeated climate disasters destroyed their natural resources. Because they are penniless, they can only use bamboo, branches and tarps to make a simple shelter and settle down temporarily along the east-west highway in Nepal.

After spending several months by the side of the road, they were moved to the open space next to the government building. After nearly two years, in early 2007, the families were relocated to the Bankacht area again; with funding from civil society organizations, local builders built eight makeshift houses out of dirt, animal waste and bricks. to house these displaced families (figure 1).

Figure 1 due to the limited funding of non-governmental organizations, only very simple houses can be built to house these families displaced by climate disasters.

This area used to be a desolate and uninhabited place, and the natural river meandered through the trees (figure 2). Because of the flat and low-lying terrain and no water conservancy facilities, flooding is common during the rainy season from mid-May to the end of September, affected by monsoon rains from India and the Bay of Bengal. Families settled here face the threat of frequent flooding every year, with damage to furniture, stoves and other basic necessities, crops and livestock and other sources of livelihood. In serious cases, houses will be destroyed or even washed away. Every year during the floods, these families are forced to temporarily move out of their houses and wade into a local school with their only belongings on their heads, usually for a stay of seven to 30 days.

Fig. 2 the area where the Bankacht settlement is located was originally a desolate and undeveloped land, with winding rivers hidden in the forest. Because of the flat terrain and lack of water conservancy facilities, it is often hit by floods.

Because of their special social class, they are easily excluded by other groups when seeking refuge, and because of factors such as the reopening of schools, these families often have to avoid the flood by renting houses outside temporarily; when the flood recedes, they can return to their devastated homes.

The repeated losses caused by the floods and the resulting expenses such as temporary renting and house repairs have plunged these families into a vicious circle of abject poverty; due to lack of skills to earn a living, most of the young and middle-aged men in the settlements have to leave their homes and go to work in the cities to support their family expenses. Due to the government's indifference after relocation, social discrimination and unequal treatment, and years of flooding, these families do not expect anything about the future and do nothing about the disaster. I just hope to survive the next flood.

Integration of local knowledge and transfer of technology: from the mountains and forests of Taiwan to the plains of Nepal

The Atayal, who live in the mountains of northern Taiwan, make a living by hunting and burning mountain fields, so whenever they move to new sites for reclamation, they often use local materials to build settlements. The traditional Atayal house, which stands in the mountains and forests, mainly uses cinnamon bamboo, wood, mountain vines and stones as building materials, warm in winter and cool in summer, and can protect against wind and rain. It is a green building built according to the wisdom of our ancestors.

Taking into account the advantages of natural materials, low construction cost, and simple construction technology, the Church and Social Committee (hereinafter referred to as the Church Committee) of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan decided to use the remaining funds from disaster relief in Nepal to assist these displaced families in Bankacht, through the introduction of the architectural form of the Atayal bamboo house, so that they can coexist with floods and face the threat of extreme weather.

The Education Society Committee combined the National Science and Technology Center for disaster Prevention and Rescue of the Ministry of Science and Technology and the thinking Laboratory (ThinkLab) of the University of Salford (University of Sanford) in the United Kingdom as disaster prevention partners, and went to Bankacht, Nepal in December 2018 to conduct a feasibility assessment, and then put forward the idea of a resilient home. Through cooperation with INGO/NGO and local government (Baijath Rural Municipality), the humanitarian assistance program was officially launched in March 2019, and the construction of eight bamboo houses was completed in March 2020.

For poor families, property losses and housing damage caused by disasters will cause great hardship to their lives and livelihoods, so the initial goal of the plan is to reduce flood impact and reduce flood losses. In view of the fact that flooding is an inevitable "natural phenomenon" of the settlement, the planning team originally planned the architectural design strategy of high flood control, through the construction of tall houses to create houses that coexist with water to cope with frequent flooding during the rainy season. However, families living in Bankacht are usually the elderly, people with physical and mental disabilities, women and children, etc., taking into account the attributes of residents and patterns of daily life, high houses will make it very inconvenient for residents to get in and out; after consultation with settlement families, taking into account the local environment, flood patterns, existing building structure and other factors, decided to put forward two types of house architectural design (figure 3).

Fig. 3 after considering the environmental characteristics of the base, flood patterns, residents' attributes, lifestyle and other factors, the architectural style of the bamboo house was discussed and designed by Taiwan's ─ and Nepal (drawing: Peng Hongjie)

For houses washed away by the flood, a tall bamboo house will be built on the original base, and the height of the floor will be set on the basis of the highest flood water level in 2014 (figure 4). For the existing earthen houses, the construction of a second floor on top of the existing premises and the addition of indoor staircases will be carried out by way of alteration. The second floor can be used as a place for vertical refuge during flooding, effectively avoiding the loss of life and property, and an additional living field at ordinary times, relieving space congestion when families who work outside work return home (figure 5).