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Habitat For Humanity And Roman Catholic Chetanalaya To Build 150 Houses For Former Delhi Slum Dwellers In India

Plans for the Bawana resettlement colony also include health, livelihood and self-help group programs

DELHI, 24th August 2006: Life is about to get better for 150 families who were moved to Bawana resettlement colony, about 40 km from the Indian capital Delhi, back in 2004 as part of a slum clearance exercise.

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Ray of hope: (from left) Oscar Fernandez, Minister of State, and Vincent M. Concessao, Archbishop of Delhi, lighting a lamp at the inaugural ceremony for the Bawana project. Looking on is Sunil David, director of the Habitat Resource Center in Delhi.

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Energetic: Young people from the Bawana colony performing for the guests at the inaugural ceremony.

They are the first to benefit from a Habitat partnership with non-governmental organization Chetanalaya that could eventually see more than 2,000 families having new homes.

The project’s inaugural ceremony was held in Bawana on 21st August. Vincent M. Concessao, Archbishop of Delhi, was the guest of honor and others in attendance included Oscar Fernandez, Minister of State; Father Susai Sebastian, director of Chetanalaya; Sunil David, director of the Habitat Resource Center in Delhi; Shri Subhash Chandra, assistant commissioner of police; Shri Anwar Bhaiya, “pradhan” or chief of Bawana, and homepartners.

A social development wing of the Catholic Archdiocese of Delhi, Chetanalaya has been working in the slums and resettlement colonies of Delhi and the northern Haryana state during the past 35 years. In the course of its work, Chetanalaya has reached out to more than 1.5 million people through community development, literacy, housing, microfinance and women self-help group initiatives, among others.

Before this project, many in the Bawana resettlement colony were resigned to living in bamboo huts with plastic sheets for a roof. A lack of electricity, clean water and sanitation facilities added to these settlers’ problems. Many slum residents also lost their jobs as rickshaw cyclists, rag pickers or daily wage workers when they moved far away from their sources of livelihood in Delhi.

When the more than 2,000 families were relocated to Bawana, some families could buy a plot of land from the government. But that depended in part on how long they had stayed in the old slum near the Yamuna River in east Delhi. Many families, however, could ill afford the 7,000 rupees (about US$150) for a plot of about 10 sq. m. Others who did fork out money for the land have barely enough money left to build a decent house.

This is where Habitat and Chetanalaya come in to provide the much needed assistance. Caritas France will contribute part of the funds through Chetanalaya. Caritas France is part of Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development and social service organizations working in over 200 countries and territories. Habitat will provide construction and project management expertise.

In his speech at the ceremony, Archbishop Concessao urged the Habitat homepartners to play their part. “It is important that homeowners repay their loans fully and in time so that others would benefit from it. Now that they have been helped, they must help reach out to others,” he said.

The houses to be built in Bawana measure 3 m. by 2.3 m each. They are designed to be earthquake-resistant since the city lies in an area prone to such disasters. The houses are being built with red clay bricks with concrete pillars for support.

Plans for the Bawana settlement colony go beyond housing. Caritas France will support programs related to strengthening of self-help groups, literacy, health, livelihood and capacity building for the first three years of the project.