These women act to make homes climate resilient

Thanks to the efforts of NGO – Mahila Housing Sewa Trust (MHT), houses in certain slums of Ahmedabad, are now experiencing a cool down in their homes. These homes are climate resilient.  

How these women made their houses climate resilient

Farida Sheikh remembers her house in the slums in Ahmedabad feeling like a furnace, where summer temperatures have reached up to 50 degrees Celsius. But for the last four years, the situation inside the house has cooled down. The two-room house’s metal sheet roof, which raised the indoor temperature by two or three degrees, was replaced by ModRoof – a special cooling roof locally manufactured from coconut husk and paper waste. This brought the indoor temperatures in summer three to five degrees lower than the reading outdoors. In fact she now claims her home is climate resilient

Protected from the scorching heat, Sheikh says that related health issues have reduced, the children can study and the family can operate their home-run kite-making business in safe conditions.

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Ahmedabad experienced one of its worst heat waves in 2010 with 1,344 deaths, while 24,223 people lost their lives between 1992 and 2015 across India. In 2019, the country faced its longest heat wave in three decades, and the year concluded a decade of exceptional global heat and high-impact weather due to climate change.

As the population in urban centers becomes denser, climate change pressures such as heat waves, water scarcity, and floods could make the standard of living in cities fall drastically, especially for the poor.

Empowering the marginalized

MHT, with its 25 years in the field empowering women from marginalized communities and resolving housing issues, pitched in to help slums adapt to the impacts of climate change. With approximately $1.2 million support from the Global Resilience Partnership from 2015, they expanded their climate resilience program to reach 100 slums across eight Indian cities, one in Nepal and another in Bangladesh.

“We focus on four stresses that are prevalent in a majority of the slums – heat stress, floods, vector-borne diseases, and water scarcity,” says Siraz Hirani, senior program manager at MHT.

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Priya Dutta, senior research associate at the Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar, says that concretization and lack of green spaces contribute to heat-trapping in cities. “Women, the elderly and children are most vulnerable to extreme heat,” says Dutta, who worked on developing the Ahmedabad Heat Action Plan. She adds the aim is to make homes climate resilient.

The social enterprise branches out from facilitating the installment of cooling roofs or cheaper alternatives such as sun reflective white paint, to also include early warning systems for heat as well as floods, water quality testing, and cleanliness drives among other initiatives.

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