India National Conference on Shelter in Emergencies: Challenges & Opportunities

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On February 25th, 2016, The National Conference on “Shelter in Emergencies” was organised by CARE INDIA with support from Christian Aid and Sphere India. The conference, held in New Delhi, facilitated the process of exchange of experiences and lessons learned, as well as discussion of challenges encountered in implementing shelter projects in Indian context among a wide range of stakeholders. The conference was organised to disseminate the findings of the shelter study recently concluded by CARE INDIA, and provided a forum to share experiences from the past on shelter in post-humanitarian crisis. The key objective of the conference was to develop a consensus around strategy for shelters in future emergencies in India and the region.

Mr. Rajeev Sadanandan, Joint Secretary, Rural Housing, Ministry of Rural Development was the Chief Guest for the event. The other eminent dignitaries who attended the conference were Dr.Ashok Khosla, Chairman, Development Alternatives, Mr. Vinod Sharma, Honourable Vice Chairman, Sikkim Disaster Management Authority and Eminent
professor at Indian Institute of Public Administration and Mr. Ajit Chaudhari, General Manager, Tata Sons. The conference was also participated by well-known shelter experts across the states as well as various international and national NGOs, International donors and UN agencies.

Workshop proceedings were conducted through a series of technical sessions, focusing on the various aspects of shelter construction like sharing of national experiences; capacity-building initiatives; best practices; emerging challenges and future directions for shelter response in India. Each of the technical sessions comprised of thematic presentations by programme stakeholders and experts followed by open discussions. Going beyond experiences related to the shelter projects, this knowledge sharing initiative also focused on key technical aspects of shelter reconstruction such as disaster risk assessment, disaster-resistant construction, retrofitting, regulatory mechanisms such as building codes and by-laws, use of sustainable construction materials, capacity
building of construction fraternity and role of community participation.

Some of the key take points which emerged from the deliberations during the conference were as follows:

  • The shelter is not merely a single entity. Habitation and Habitat should go hand in hand. It is important to understand whom we are building for and balance between structural, environmental and social principles.There should be a much broader discussion with more focus on various sectoral interventions (water, sanitation,
    hygiene, health, environment, energy and livelihood) to ensure sustainability of shelter interventions and programmes.
  • Community participation and addressing the differential needs of women is an important priority in shelter programming. It is also a must to bring in the community in the purview of the shelter construction process to give them complete ownership and accountability of their shelters.
  • Coordination is the key to successful implementation of any shelter programme and it is necessary to deliberate on ways to effectively coordinate with stakeholders.
  • Post-disaster shelter reconstruction should incorporate disaster-resistant features. The focus should be on expanding the existing knowledge base and use of time-tested methods on one hand as well as continuous modernisation of the working methods and adoption of new and innovative technologies and construction
  • Since housing reconstruction is an important component in any disaster recovery programme disaster, institutions involved in disaster management and shelter construction at the national level should take a leading role to access global knowledge and learnings.
  • Effective governance has a critical role to ensure proper implementation of shelter programmes. It is important that the government define a clear strategy underlining the role of each stakeholder.
  • The role of NGOs needs to be more focused on ensuring equitable delivery to the most vulnerable and less about the delivery of infrastructure and housing at a large scale.
  • There is a need to promote increased use of cash vouchers in shelter projects as it is faster and more flexible in meeting the needs of the affected population. This has other benefits too such as increased accountability,contributing to the local economy, and community livelihoods.

The full conference proceedings can be downloaded here: Report-National Conference on Shelter in Emergencies.