A project which pioneers floating houses — houses so designed that a family of six can survive floods and still produce their own food, including vegetables, chickens and fish — in Bangladesh has won the prestigious RISK Award.
The €100,000 prize sponsored by the Munich Re Foundation was accepted by Nandan Mukherjee on behalf of Dundee University, Scotland, and Resilience Solution, Bangladesh, at the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction conference in Geneva on Friday.
The organizers, the Munich Re Foundation, Global Risk Forum (GRF) Davos, and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction had received 109 applications from 48 countries in response to a call for applications focussed on coastal resilience in face of climate and environmental changes.
“Around 40 per cent of the world’s population live in coastal areas less than 100 kms from the sea. There are lots of challenges including rising sea levels, heavy rainfall, intense storms so the RISK Award is very pleased to encourage innovations such as these floating homes which can be replicated in many parts of the world,” said Munich Re Foundation chairman Thomas Loster, congratulating the winner.
Mukherjee in his acceptance speech, said the idea of disaster resilient homes was prompted by a story he heard from a woman who lost a child in a flood and was then abandoned by her husband.
“She blames herself every single day, and she told me that she will never take another child or try for a family again in her life because she is unable to safeguard poor lives,” he said.
Mukherjee continued: “The area was protected by flood embankments and people living inside the area did not anticipate flooding, therefore they were living in a false sense of security that they are protected from flood. However, the reality was something else. They didn’t go to the emergency ‘safe’ shelter, because ‘safe’ shelters are not as safe as it sounds.
“Numerous literatures document the occurrences of rape, child abuse, inadequate space, poor water supply and sanitation access, inadequate food in the shelters. Most importantly, there is no provision for continuing the daily livelihood in the safe shelters.”
So the idea of a disaster resilient home was born and the prize money will be used to help bring the project to scale in the flood prone river basins and deltas of Bangladesh.
“A truly disaster resilient home needs the following: it needs to robust enough to float above the flood water, providing safety. It needs to generate enough food with proper nutritional balance. It needs access to water, electricity and all other basic amenities.
“The outside walls of the house can be used for vertical gardens, we can harvest rainwater for self-sufficiency in drinking water, we can utilise renewable energy solutions for electricity, and further utilise modern technologies like aquaponics and poultry rearing for livelihood and waste recycling,” Mukherjee explained.