Charity group hopes to build Sindh's first-ever model village. By Robin Fernandez


KARACHI: A Catholic charity group on Wednesday finalized its blueprint for the first-ever model Village homes in the southern Sindh province, amid hopes that it will trigger a new construction order in Pakistan's rural heartland. The proposed village homes, located 54 kms away from Karachi's city center, will replace those razed to the ground in a devastating rain storm last month. Caritas officials say they have already received a couple of expressions of interest from church groups and aid agencies. The blueprint is being distributed among Other church relief and rehabilitation groups, as well as government and community organizations, for Financial assistance and support. "If indeed the houses are rebuilt according to our cheap housing model, Gadap will have Sindh's first model village homes," said Riaz Nawab, housing and rehabilitation coordinator for the charity. Design architects and town planners agree with the charity group's contention, because they say the Province's villages have notoriously poor and unsafe constructions. This view is shared by Farhat Hussain of the Sindh Katchi Abadi Development Authority. "Everyone is keen to improve the existing construction order in Sindh and make village houses safe and more durable," Hussain told SAR News. Some 60 housing units are to be rebuilt in the villages of Ali Muhammad Khaskheli and Dawood, a Caritas-Karachi worker said, although the storm destroyed more than 100 houses. "The villagers told us they need 60 units probably because our model homes can accommodate more people in each household," the workers said. Up to 1.5 acres of land have been identified for the construction of houses. According to Caritas-Karachi findings, the storm-wrecked village homes were improperly constructed. Cheap construction materials were used. "We found ample evidence of poor masonry work---of the kind visible in other villages of the province. No doubt the high-velocity winds were deadly and contributed much to the eventual destruction of the villages," observed Nawab. "We can safely say that 80 percent of the construction materials were destroyed by the rain-storm." Earlier, Caritas-Karachi requested a engineering consultancy firm to carry out the requisite area mapping and town planning works in Gadap's villages. The operation, begun on March 16, was completed today. With two weeks of the Feb. 19 rainstorm, Caritas-Karachi presented the affected communities of Gadap Town with its own devised cheap housing scheme to reconstruct the villagers' destroyed homes. The original scheme envisages the construction of houses on an area of 80 square yards. Caritas arranged for village elders, people's representatives and councillors to visit the site of Khuda Ki Basti (God's Village) in New Surjani Town, where it has made modest homes for the poor. The scheme has been replicated elsewhere in the city as well--albeit on a smaller scale. During an open consultation with the villagers it emerged that they wanted to construct slightly bigger houses than the ones built by Caritas in Khudi Ki Basti. "The village elders specifically told us that the people had opted for housing units equal to 120 sq yds, because they wanted to keep adequate space for their livestock," Nawab said. "It may be recalled that the villagers lost virtually all their animals in the storm." Caritas-Karachi proposed the construction of a large animal shelter and keeping separate enclosures for the animals of each household. This would encourage healthy and hygienic practices in the community. "By our reckoning, it would also serve to keep the town planning as well organised as it could possibly be. But our proposal was instantly shot down by the village elders who believe that such a shelter would be a cause of friction among villagers," a Caritas worker said. The villagers claimed that the combined shelter would embroil the inhabitants in unnecessary squabbling over animals and their ownership.

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