I started planning for making an eco resort at village Boda Chhapri, near Kanha NP. As I have written earlier I wanted to make something different where we have all modern amenities but construction should mostly involve locally available materials and local people. I worked on concept of rammed earth and this was really good and I found it to be very comfortable but use of man power went down considerably which went against my principal of giving employment to local people.
I went on to study construction style in neighborhood where people make houses of locally available clay mixing it with some sand and straw of ‘Kodo’ a locally grown grain. I saw a few houses where they had used the same technology for making houses with even up to 2 floors. But, will it stay back for couple of years, what about strength, what will happen in rains, and so many questions came to mind. Then I saw ruins of a house which was left by the occupiers a few years back and all the walls were intact without any roof. On enquiring I was told that the house was vacated around 5 or 6 years back and all wooden logs and roofing tiles were taken by the owner for using at his new site. So, for at least 5 years these walls are facing sun, wind, rains and were standing with only around 15% damage and mind it – all this even without any maintenance. Now my confidence started building up on adopting this construction method. I enquired further and was shown houses which have been occupied for last 20 to 25 years with maintenance of outer walls and change of wooden logs every now and then i.e. only on requirement.
Finally I settled with this method and I hired two people well known in the area as best ‘Mistry’ for this kind of construction Sarju and Ramdeen, both adivasis. We had lengthy discussions on different benefits and problems in using this method. I wanted green roofing which no one does here so this had to be handled by me. As for termites and pest problem local people have time tested methods which I could use at my site. On discussion about different types of agricultural waste and straw available in the area for use in construction I was told ‘Kodo’ straw is best since termite attack on it is minimal but for rice, jowar and other once it was a big NO.
I had hired an architect from Jabalpur to help me with designing part but this gentleman took more than 4 months just to make the ground plan and even that was not satisfactory. Room plan which I had made was changed, splash pool with cottages was removed and placements of cottages were all wrong. I was not happy as all construction activities had to be done well before rains set in and here we are not ready with ground plan itself. Finally, I had to sit on my own and decide everything which I did at the site. I randomly selected placement and gave details to the architect to make final plan accordingly to submit to authorities.
With plan ready and layout done we planned to start the work soon. Although rooms were being made of clay but all bathrooms had to be made ‘pucca’ using cement, baked bricks and RCC. We required almost 1000 trolley clay for our work, 50 trolley straw of ‘Kodo’, logs and other materials for giving strength. Clay and straw were a problem since now very few people grow ‘Kodo’ but in 2 weeks time we had almost 20+ trolley available to enable us to start work. Now, clay, what to do, from where to bring that much quantity of clay? Finally we decided on two things, many farmers have 4 to 5 acres of land but only around half of it is cultivable and rest not as its ‘barra’ i.e. high land and these people were interested to get their land converted to farm land. Secondly, a pond nearby needed digging so we worked on it with local panchayat people and they agreed if we dig the pond free we can take the soil. This pond used to dry up in summers and needed some digging to improve water storage capacity. So, a win – win situation for all. We were happy for clay was available in plenty, farmers as their waste land was turning into farm land and panchayat and villagers since now their pond will have better water storage capacity.
One person whom I will be forever grateful is Kalim bhai, who is a gypsy owner at Kanha. He had been with me in thick and thin and all planning we did were together and even left his business to assist me – A friend in need is a friend indeed. That’s it for now, will write more about how we did the work in coming blogs and yes many people have asked me why you chose the name ‘Kanha Village’ for my resort, will write about it also soon and will start putting in photographs of construction from next blog.
Bye for now.