Blessed with ideal climatic conditions and fertile soil, the state of Meghalaya prides itself in having a wide variety of vegetation, ranging from different species of medicinal herbs to unique fruits, vegetables, and other plants.
Traditions of collecting, processing, and preserving plants have been passed down from generation to generation. These traditions continue to be followed by the farmers of Meghalaya. However, is it justified to only utilize the rich resources bestowed upon us by our beautiful state and not give back to Mother Nature? Of course, it’s not.
Sustainable Development is Crucial.
It is essential to create and develop ways to preserve and protect the environment around us, as much as it is to know how to utilize its vast resources carefully. Sustainable development is crucial not only for our present, but also future generations where we preserve the biodiversity. Sustainable construction and housing not only opens doors for ways in which we can help protect the environment, but it also enables us to benefit economically. By using renewable resources to construct efficient homes, we can avoid buying expensive raw materials which are used extensively for construction.
In the long run, we save electricity, non-renewable resources and encourage an eco-friendly environment thereby reducing our carbon footprint and the rise in global warming. However, a question arises – if sustainable housing is a win-win situation, why isn’t it implemented more often our cities and villages?
The answer to this question lies in the simple fact that a collective vision to promote ideas concerning sustainable development is absent amongst the people. Most importantly, proper guidance and inspiration are needed to understand the technicalities involved in durable construction using readily available resources which are both environmental and cost friendly.
Fortunately, the team here at Zizira has had the privilege of meeting and learning from a true visionary who has already started developing sustainable, low-cost construction in the small village of Myrdon Nongbah using one of the fastest growing renewable resource available in our state – Bamboo!
Here, we will take you on a journey to the village of Myrdon Nongbah, to know about the creative innovation, and preservation through the use of bamboo construction and meet the village’s headman who is behind it all. Here is is a first-hand report made by the team that visited the village.
Onwards to Myrdon Nongbah!
The village of Myrdon Nongbah is situated in Umsning Tehsil of Ri Bhoi district in Meghalaya. The 10 Km route to the village was not easy as the roads were in very poor condition. In fact, the last 5kms were just stones and sand, which we navigated slowly. We were greeted by the sight of a very clean village with dustbins all around, all credit to the village headman. The villagers grow ginger, turmeric and three different varieties of rice i.e., Lahi, Menri, and Violet Sticky Rice.
The Visionary Headman of Myrbon Nongbah
The village headman, Bah Bipul, has already implemented his ideas for sustainable construction and housing in his village.
With an aim to transform his village into a learning hub he has used bamboo as a resource to construct schools in the village. Moreover, he has adopted innovative methods which include the preservation and utilization of bamboo so that it can be re-used for other purposes.
The Innovative Methods Used by the Headman
One of the major disadvantages of using bamboo as a construction material is its durability. Bamboo contains high levels of starch which attracts insects such as termites and beetles and they eat away the bamboo reducing its longevity. However, Bah Bipul has a method to improve its life. The bamboo is treated beforehand and is cut and processed within 4-5 days so that the starch does not dry up.
How does Bah Bipul do it?
The Headman Bah Bipul showed us two methods of treating and soaking the bamboo.
The first method involves a process in which the bamboo is injected with a chemical called Cooper Chrome Boron (CCB). This protects the bamboo from wood borers, fungi, decay, and termites. During the process of injecting, the starch is also blown out and is replaced with CCB.
The second method involves drilling the bamboos in two places at all the joints and then soaking the pieces in a Boric Acid, Borax and water solutions for three days and three nights. The proportion of the elements used for this soak are Borax, Boric Acid, and Water in the ratio of 1.5:1:1.
Indigenous to the Northeast, the Bamboo Balcooa is a variety of bamboo that has been used traditionally as a raw material for the construction of houses and bridges in the Northeastern region of India and Bangladesh. The other varieties of bamboo include Bambusa and Bambusa Tulda. He further explains that different bamboo varieties are used for various purposes such as medicine, animal fodder, furniture and accessories, to name a few.
Another Innovative Idea - Hand-made Low-cost Bricks
Moving on to another innovative skill, Bah Bipul makes low-cost bricks. He explained that to make the bricks he uses clay, cement, and sand in the ratio of 7: 1: 5, and lime water (ratio of 1kg of lime and 10 litres of water) The lime exhibits certain characteristics which make the bricks more durable and environment-friendly.
Two manual machines are used to make the bricks – one that can be pressed and is expensive, and the other which involves a simple and cheaper process in which they press using their feet and is mainly used for BPL. Bah Bipul told us that while pressing the bricks, they cover their feet to prevent the lime water from burning them.
The village is working on a school project building, using the new innovations. With their success, Bah Bipul is hoping to see more of these eco-friendly constructions around the village, in the adjoining towns and maybe across Meghalaya.
Re-use and recycling of Bamboo
Bah Bipul, stresses that bamboo should not be wasted. On the contrary, he recommends re-using it?
He collects the remains from the bamboo that was utilized for construction and burns it in a drum-like-chimney they have constructed and converts it into charcoal. The powder of the charcoal is mixed with flour to hold the powder together. It is then minced in a machine that pushes the mixture and produces charcoal. It’s as simple as that!
What’s next for Bah Bipul?
Bah Bipul has a vision that his village will not only be a centre for sustainable development but also a centre for learning. As the village headman, he encourages the people in his village not to be lazy and to contribute to the greenery and cleanliness of the village by planting trees and plants. He is doing a lot for his village with funds coming from both State and Central governments. He is a great example for not only the people in his village but also everyone who hopes for a brighter tomorrow.
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