Aspirations and compromises: Changes in homestead space relations of the extreme poor after Disaster
CitationRahman, T. (2011). Aspirations and compromises: Changes in homestead space relations of the extreme poor after disaster. PLoS Currents, doi:10.1371/currents.RRN1280
Background: Construction of houses in homesteads and their settings occur in the context of traditional perceptions and practices in the rural culture of Bangladesh. Functional spaces inside and around the house are produced according to need over time. Inhabitants construct their houses with locally available resources and knowledge. After devastating disasters houses are delivered as products by the development agencies to quickly cater to the needs of the sufferers. The extreme poor are the receivers and inhabitants of these new houses, which can cause significant changes in the physical and environmental characteristics of the neighborhood. In this regard the building and dwelling values of the inhabitants in relation with these houses may be changed or lost. But these values are otherwise inherent characters of the rural houses in the habitations that are shaped by the aspirations of the dwellers. Methods and Findings: This paper investigates how relief houses serve the needs of the extreme poor after disasters and how these houses gradually blend with the surrounding environment matching with the aspirations of the inhabitants. The methodology followed was observation of the backgrounds of the pre and post disaster situations, focus group discussions, drawings sessions and interviews with the inhabitants, craftsmen and locals, use of secondary sources, and visits to the houses during and after construction to understand the techniques and space value. Conclusions: The present practice of distribution of relief houses without involvement of the owners either in the information sharing or building processes and without understanding owners' perceptions about dwellings, may compromise the compatibility and hence the sustainability of relief houses. Hence, houses may only be used as temporary or transitional shelters to sustain life in the disaster phase, and will not be used as "houses" long term.