A strong community needs resilient houses

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  • Hannah Maureen Wagner-Loeffler
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As he looks up at the walls of the newly built house, he smiles. He gently runs his fingers over the cemented belt, which makes it resistant to earthquakes, a gesture of gratitude and satisfaction. Sanu Chepang has worked all his life on construction sites, but for the first time he can now be sure that the houses he is building will protect its residents and will not be razed as soon as the next earthquake shakes the country.

While his hand is still on the wall, he lowers his gaze to the floor, remembering the past: “I always used to build houses. Back then, I mainly focused on woodworking instead of building houses as a whole. However, the houses we built were only made of stone and mud, and we all knew that it was only a matter of time before the next earthquake destroys them again.”

Nepal lies on the border of two massive tectonic plates that collided over the past millions of years to form the Himalaya. This continuing convergence is also the reason why Nepal is regularly hit by earthquakes that sometimes even destroy entire cities and leave many families homeless. Two years after the devastating earthquake of 2015, Caritas Nepal started implementing its project in Tobang Village, in Chitwan district, to teach the construction of earthquake-proof houses. Sanu took part in the training provided and completed his apprenticeship with great ambition last year. With even greater motivation, has already built 15 to 20 resilient houses.

“Now when building new houses, we include three cemented belts in the walls and begin to build deeper underground!”

Explains Sanu pointing to the gray lines in the walls and on the floor of the house. To make the house resistant to earthquakes, three 6 inch high cemented strips are installed in the wall at a distance of 2 feet. Inside these strips are steel grids, which are held together by wires and which are supposed to absorb vibrations in the event of an earthquake. (See illustration) In addition, the base of the house is 3 feet below the floor to anchor it on a deeper level and to increase stability. “The combination of these techniques makes the house strong and earthquake-proof!” claims Sanu.

“In my village I have already rebuilt all the houses destroyed by the earthquake. In search of work I now go to other villages and offer to help with the construction”, he says and looks into the distance, his hands on his hips. “And most of the time people welcome me happily. They trust me and the skills I have received – they trust me to build steadfast houses. For this reason it is much easier for me to find work after training. And additionally my salary increased so that I can now easily feed my family. Everything changed to the better!”

“In this seven-day training course, I gained knowledge that would probably be equivalent to seven years!”

Sanu Chepang is grateful that he received the training, thanks to which he was able to improve his own livelihood but also serve a greater common purpose. “People no longer have to fear that their homes will be destroyed by future earthquakes. They can relax and live a peaceful life. Even though they know there will be more earthquakes, they can feel safe knowing that they can rely on my skills. “A smile spreads across his face as he puts his thoughts into words. “Thank you for making this possible! Thank you for recognizing my skills!”

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