Bhuj, a small city with a population of approximately 250,000, faces the challenge of accommodating over a third of its residents (14,000 families) living in slums. The approach to slum redevelopment in India has evolved over time, moving from evictions in the past to recognizing slum dwellers’ rights in the 1990s. The Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) in 2011 was a significant step forward, offering a progressive housing scheme that allowed in-situ resettlement with infrastructure improvements and grants for self-redevelopment. Despite some implementation challenges, Hunnarshala, in partnership with local organizations, showed faith in community-driven rebuilding efforts, aiding vulnerable families in Bhuj post the 2001 earthquake. Although Bhuj was not initially part of RAY, their persistent advocacy ensured its inclusion, securing 314 houses for slum redevelopment. Women played a crucial role in garnering support, highlighting the potential for empowering slum communities through such initiatives.
The slum redevelopment design process in Bhuj focused on providing suitable living conditions for residents while addressing various essential aspects. Recognizing the low density of the city, the proposal justified allocating 65 square meters of land for each ground-story house, freeing up 60 hectares of land for the city. Clusters of homes, reminiscent of traditional falias, were organized to encourage a sense of community ownership.
The concept of “Jodi” plots allowed joint families to subdivide as needed, ensuring housing security for future generations. Additionally, the inclusion of Vichani, a service lane, facilitated back access and ventilation. Motorized and pedestrian movement were separated to enhance safety and convenience. The design prioritized self-managed community services to address water scarcity and garbage management, employing technologies like recharge bore-wells, community RO plants, and composting centers. By involving the community in implementing these solutions, the project aimed to foster a sense of responsibility and develop financial incentives for future sustainable practices.
The project was initiated by the Municipality, with Hunnarshala named as the Project Management Agency in the Approved Project Document. This move aimed to bypass corrupt practices during tendering and allotment. The construction process was “owner-driven,” allowing homeowners to manage their projects, while the Municipality’s role was limited to fund transfers.
Three distinct construction methods emerged: Bhimrao Nagar residents handled their own construction, Ramdev Nagar gave projects on labor contract, and GIDC families mostly hired petty contractors. Delays occurred due to issues with fund release, banking hurdles, and land transfer problems. Some families faced challenges and refused to cooperate during the project.
Despite a five-year timeline instead of the intended year and a half, the project’s completion was made possible through the efforts of empathetic individuals within the establishment who appreciated the project’s ideas.