Dream that's failed

IN 1988 the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) allotted 2.1 ha of land in Nand Nagri in east Delhi to the Mud Village Society (MVS) to build a model colony of environment-friendly mud-houses. However, the project seems to have run into rough weather and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) has staked its claim to the same plot of land which had originally been alloted to the MVS project superseding 1,400 other cooperatives. Mud is the dominant material to be used in the project, with every structure to be made of sunbaked bricks of either adobe or soil blocks stabilised with lime. The foundation would be of stone blocks and the roof and floor of stone slabs. A minimal amount of concrete would be needed for the foundation and for the beams that have to support heavy loads. Architect Manmohan Dayal eplained, "The lifespan of these mud buildings would be about 99 years. However, this is a conservative estimate. If maintained properly, these houses would last over 150 years."

The buildings are based on the concept of passive solar architecture. They will be warmer in winter and cooler in summer, not only because of the excellent insulating quality of mud but also because the buildings are so designed that their broadest surfaces face north-south to minimise heat gain in summer and maximise it in winter.

MVS's problems began from its very inception, with the DDA insisting that its registered applicants should be made members of MVS. Kapoor, excutive director of MVS, then undertook a meticulous screening of DDA applicants to select only the ecologically conscious. This has delayed the project and MVS has yet to make the payment to take possession of the land -- which is estimated to cost Rs 2 crore now, double the price in 1988.

HUDCO, has declared the MVS experiment a national demonstration project, and has agreed to finance 60 per cent of its estimated Rs 4.5-crore cost. The remaining 40 per cent will be collected from society members -- with those from the high income group significantly subsidising the economically weaker sections who were selected from the slum communities near Nand Nagri.

Half the 300 residential units are to be allotted to high income members and the other half to those economically weaker, who include folk artistes, artisans and service personnel. The community will utilise solar and bioenergy to supplement conventional energy. The project includes a community area with a health centre, a creche, worksheds for weavers, carpenters and folk artistes, a community kitchen and a reading-cum-media room.

The project is not without its sceptics. Some contend once MVS takes possession of the land it will be under pressure to modify its plans to suit its rich members, most of whom look upon the mud village a weekend home. Others say its proximity to the metropolis will make it vulnerable to encroachment, crime, pollution and speculative resale.