Mahila Housing SEWA Trust

When individuals join in a cooperative venture, the power generated far exceeds what they could have accomplished acting individually.” -R. Buckminster Fuller

LOCATION: Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India

SUMMARY:Mahila Housing SEWA Trust (MHT) creates a unique socio-technical partnership between communities and stakeholders, integrating traditional knowledge with modern technologies in order to devise multi-layered solutions to climate change impacts for poor urban dwellers. Founded on decades of work in sustainable community development and, in particular, women’s empowerment, MHT’s Climate Resiliency Project addresses vulnerability to water stress, flooding, and health risks in urban communities across four states of India. Inspired by Buckminster Fuller’s call to make the world work for 100% of humanity through the application of design science, the project will facilitate dialogue between vulnerable populations, government officials, and technical experts in order to adapt appropriate technologies into local climate change coping mechanisms.

PROBLEM SPACE: Ahmedabad city is the capital of Gujarat in India with the highest rate of urbanization, at 37%. Over 4,39,843 people are low-income and extremely vulnerable to climate change effects. Ahmedabad is prone to heat waves. In May 2010 temperatures went up to 46.8C (116.24F) killing 1,344 people—a 43% increase in mortality as compared to 2009 in the same period. The city has an ageing infrastructure with breakages of up to 25,000/year causing, 383 million liters of water loss in 2011. Ground water has depleted by 100 m in 2011. Frequent flooding occurs with road lengths of 2,300 km. Indoor storage of water has made the city susceptible to mosquito-borne outbreaks of chikungunya and dengue. In 2006 there were 60,777 suspected cases of chikungunya causing losses worth US $6.6-17.3 million. From 2005-2011 there were 10,403 causes of dengue, which is double the national average.


When there is a facilitating agency like us, which will listen to the technical experts, talk to the communities, and go to the city governments with a model that explains what needs to be done on the ground, technical knowledge is broken down into action points. In the South Asian context, knowledge is not lacking. This is about making knowledge actually relevant and applicable to the poor, because the so-called experts don’t know the ground realities.” Ms. Bijal Brahmbhatt, Director of Mahila Housing SEWA Trust

Mahila Housing SEWA Trust (MHT) has worked to support dignified lives for women in the informal economy since 1994. Resilience, particularly for the social constituency with whom MHT works, is a new and abstract concept—particularly when the immediate needs of food, water, sanitation, and decent living and working conditions are not met. MHT seeks to translate the concept of resilience in order to enable the urban poor to plan for a future of climate change. After a recent onset of climate-related events, MHT recognizes that women and low-income urban dwellers are worst affected by climate change. Their belief is that when people are provided with requisite knowledge and equipped with relevant technologies, they can generate and implement their own locally relevant, cost-effective solutions. Thus, the Climate Resiliency Project will allow poor urban women to overcome frequent heat waves, flooding, water shortages, and vector-borne diseases through a suite of solutions such as green roofs and walls for temperature reduction, urban rainwater harvesting, solar energy, efficient cooling and ventilation, and more. NHT will also continue to tackle information and knowledge barriers, thus building the capacity of local communities to implement their own resiliency plans. By bridging gaps between local governments, technical experts, and low-income residents, MHT will devise locally relevant technical solutions to reduce future vulnerability. Upon replication, this initiative could impact over 190 million people living In informal urban settlements throughout South Asia.