24th World Congress of Architecture 2011 at Tokyo

On 26th & 27th September 2011 the Executive Director of Shelter Associates gave a presentation at the 24th World Congress of Architecture in Tokyo.  The subject of the session intended to be on the growth of cities generally but was re-titled, by the organisers of the event after the earthquake in Japan on 11th March 2011, to “How to regenerate hope of living after a disaster”.

The presentation first established a common problem associated with both natural disasters and neglectful planning:

There many people who live in locations without adequate infrastructure for safe, healthy, dignified and comfortable living that have not experienced extreme weather or earthquakes; they are victims of a different agent of change; the economy.  Prosperity and employment opportunities are not democratically distributed; they are focused in particular geographical locations.  This situation leads to an exodus of people from poorer areas and an influx of people into areas with greater economic activity.  As the public sector and the private sector has failed to increase their housing stock to match the growth of their population, citizens have no choice but to establish themselves in unofficial communities commonly known as ‘slums’.  This type of disaster is a social disaster not a natural disaster but the result is similar; there is a discrepancy between what is needed and what is available, in terms of housing and basic services.”

The Executive Director then suggested that Shelter Associates approach to slum rehabilitation should be adopted when designing new housing for people who have been cast into poverty by natural disasters:

“While Shelter Associates has no experience in working on aid projects in relation to international humanitarian missions, we have 18 years experience of working with the urban poor in Maharashtra and believe that the principle which guides our approach could serve as an important principle that could guide relief projects.  It is important to understand the situation which you are addressing; it is of vital importance to understand the culture and needs of the people who you are trying to help (as well as having their input and support).  Data must be collected, organized geographically, and analyzed to generate an effective rehabilitation strategy.

A poorly designed slum rehabilitation housing scheme was presented to highlight the responsibility of city officials and construction professionals:

“Hope exists in vast quantities in even the most bleak of environments, it is not hope which requires our regeneration but the fairness and morally equality of our planning policies.  Even though the problem of inadequate housing requires immediate attention and immediate action there is no justification for inadequate thought and insensitive design.  As construction professionals will still have a duty-of-care to the people who reside within our designs, even when we are designing in response to emergency situations.  We should apply the same professional rigor when designing transition camps, transitional shelters and new housing for the poor as we do when we are designing commercial centers, hospitals, offices and airports.

The Executive Director then concluded:

“2000 years ago the Romans believed that you should judge a civilization by what it does with its waste; perhaps today in the 21st Century, in addition to waste management, we should be judging our civilization on how we treat our fellow citizens who live in poverty, including those people who are cast into impoverished conditions due to extreme environmental events and/or extreme neglect.

Shelter Associates are featured on Times Now ‘Amazing Indians’ series

In November 2011 Pratima Joshi, the Executive Director of Shelter Associates, was featured on the Times of Indias national news channel ‘Times Now’ as part of their ‘Amazing Indians: India on the rise’ series.  You can watch the video on TIMESNOW.tv, click on the link below to be taken to the short film.  The name of the short film is ‘Sheltering the urban poor – 1 and Sheltering the urban poor – 2’.


Diwali Art in Sangli

As the people will be moving into multi-storied buildings, the traditional way of cooking on the wood stove will no longer be feasible. Pratima Joshi articulated this concern, taking into consideration the wish of the women to continue to cook traditional cuisine in their new housing settings. Using smokeless chullahs makes this possible, while drastically improving the health of the women and their families. Clearly, the time for smokeless chullahs is now, as traditions must be thoughtfully adapted to accommodate modern changes.

1 2 3


Shivrai Nagar in the News

On 17th January, Shelter Associates gave a presentation in the community of Shivrai Nagar to tell residents more about their work, and celebrate the completion of 105 individual toilets in the settlement.

Shivrai Nagar is one of a number of unregistered slums in the Bibewadi area of Pune, where residents lack access to basic facilities such as clean water, waste disposal and sanitation. Lack of toilet provision was a pressing problem, with over 2000 people forced to defecate in open space prior to Shelter Associates’ involvement.


The presentation was well attended by community members, along with representatives from our partners SwadharFriends of Shelter Associates (FSA); and the Municipal Corporation. Sunil Bhatia, the founder of FSA, had travelled to Pune from the US to visit. His charity raised 40,000 USD towards the individual toilet project, in which toilets were provided to families on a cost-sharing basis.

The presentation began with an introduction from Angali Bapat, of the NGO Swardhar, who first invited Shelter Associates into the settlement. Then it was the turn of Shelter Associates community workers, who explained the project in more detail. They used aerial photographs and coloured plans to display their survey information in a way that was easy for everyone to understand. They also showed photographs of the terrible garbage situation in the settlement before the clean up – accompanied by peals of laughter from those who had forgotten how shocking the situation had been only a short time ago.

The most memorable moment of the day was when community members stood up to tell their own stories. These personal responses to the project were not scripted and gave a powerful illustration of the difference a toilet had made for individual families.

Despite the celebrations, work in Shivrai Nagar is far from over. Shelter Associates is working to extend individual toilet provision within the settlement and to the surrounding areas, where the sanitation situation is acute. Survey work is currently underway in some of these neighbouring communities.

Visit the press section of our website to read articles about the event from Indian Express, Sakal and Lokamat.

Chullahs and Workshops

Volunteer Miles Phillips has made two new videos about our recent work, which are now available on the Shelter Associates’ YouTube channel.

These give a brief introduction to two of our current projects in Sangli:

Smokeless Cooking Stoves (Chullahs), developed by the Appropriate Rural Technology Institute (ARTI), have been provided free of charge by Shelter Associates to some of the poorest families.

Children’s Workshops to teach slum children about environmental responsibility, have been taking place since March 2010. Take a look at our previous posts for a more information.


Children’s Workshops Continue in Sangli

Shelter Associates has been running a series of workshops for children in the slums of Sangli. They are targeted at 10 and 12 year-olds, whose families will soon be relocated under the Government of India’s JNNURMscheme. The workshops take place in a fun and informal atmosphere, where the children have the chance to get to know their new neighbours and learn about their role as future caretakers of their environment.
Following a series of six introductory ‘ice-breaking’ workshops, there will be further sessions on Health & Nutrition, Water, and Sanitation & Waste.

Workshop for Community Children of Sangli

In collaboration with NiBo, Shelter Associates & nbsp conducted a two-day workshop for children on August 21st and August 22nd. The workshop covered 8 slums in the cities of Sangli, Miraj, Kupwad (all three of which form a municipal corporation). 80 children between the ages of 10 and 12 participated.

This workshop is the first in a series that is being planned for the slum kids of Sangli and the surrounding areas who are part of the IHSDP (Integrated Housing and Slum Development Programme) portion of the JNNURM (Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission) program of the Government of India. There are 29 slums covering almost 3800 families that will be relocated as part of this project.

Shelter Associates believes that these children are the future caretakers of their new environment. Any efforts made at this tender and impressionable age to teach them about environmental issues will help in building a sense of responsibility towards the upkeep of their new homes and environment. The workshops aim to impart learning through fun and games in an informal atmosphere. The themes will tackle health and hygiene and other environmental related issues. Each group will be taken through 6 workshops over the next 5 months.

Miraj recent events

Reshma always thought of earning money own her own but as she does not have proper education to take up a job she couldn’t. But she has an interest in stitching and hence she took the training from Shelter Associates for stitching cloth bags. Now she stitches at her own house and gets a monthly income out of this.

Lake Innovation Conference

Pratima Joshi, Executive Director of Shelter Associates, recently participated in a social media technologies workshop through the Ashoka Foundation. Identified as having used web 2.0 and/or social media technologies to advance SA’s work, she was invited to the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Study Center in Northern Italy. The purpose of the workshop was to determine how an NGO can best use social media tools to transform their work and generate ideas and solutions to specific problems. Innovative social change work can be accelerate with the use of innovative communications technologies.

Watch this short film showing the Ashoka Fellows and workshop administrators who attended:

Smokeless Chullahs in Sangli 09/06/2011

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), three billion people – or half of the world’s population – cook their meals indoors over biomass-fueled open fires. Not only is the majority of this heat wasted, 20% of it is converted into toxic substances like carbon monoxide, benzene, and formaldehyde. In India alone, 500,000 people die annually as a result of indoor air pollution (IAP). Disproportionately, the majority of these victims are women and young children, as they spend the most time around indoor fires. These deaths are brought on by IAP-related diseases such as bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma. (Information from envirofitcookstoves.org).

In order to combat this health hazard, Shelter Associates has taken on the task of raising awareness about and making available smokeless chullahs (stoves) to families in slums throughout Sangli. These chullahs, acquired through ARTI (Appropriate Rural Technology Institute), are incredibly durable, practical, and greatly reduce toxic emissions and fuel use – directly benefiting the health of women and children. Costing approximately $15, Shelter Associates has developed a mechanism in which the people can pay for their chullahs in installments.

Abha Dhotre is an area in Sangli that first took the initiative of ordering smokeless chullahs in bulk. These chullahs were presented in the community on 16 July 2009. The meeting was attended by the self-help group on savings, Pratima Joshi (Executive Director of Shelter Associates), Lata Shrikhande (Associate Executive Director of Shelter Associates), Mr. Pravin More, Mr. Vivek Raman, Mr. Ravi (with WSP from the World Bank in Delhi), Sharda Kamble (president of the savings groups Shivan and Omkar), and Sunita Patil (the local corporator). In addition, the meeting was attended by more than fifteen women of Abha Dhotre and their children, along with Shelter Associates’ members from Pune and Sangli. The meeting was held at the Urdu Madarsa primary school that serves as a community center during the off-hours. While the women were happily receiving their new chullahs along with lemongrass bulbs gifted by Shelter Associates in homemade recycled paper bags, tea was prepared outside on one of the smokeless chullahs! 

Smokeless Chullah being distributed in the community

Smokeless Chullah being distributed in the community

During the distribution, Lata Shrikhande addressed the future success of these chullahs: “Shelter Associates had interacted with the women regarding vermicomposting before, which was a new idea to them at that time. I am confident that as they accepted vermicomposting as a new idea, similarly they will be able to make a transition and adapt to the smokeless chullahs in their own interest. Even the savings group we started and supported by economic activities has been successful due to people’s participation.”





Pravin More recalled his own childhood in a small village in Maharashtra where a smoke-filled kitchen was a common sight. He remembered his grandmother coughing away as she worked over her smoke-filled stove in the kitchen for the lack of a better alternative. Things just got worse in the rainy season as the wood would be damp. He appreciated Shelter Associates’ work as they are in tuned to the needs of the people. Mr. More has traveled all across the country meeting non-profits, local government bodies, CBOs, and NGOs. He has visited Shelter’s work in Sangli that was initiated nine years ago and is still in great working condition. He believes that when all stakeholders (i.e. the community, the NGO, and the local governance) work together to reach a common vision, there is no limit as to what can be achieved.

Community members were happy to receive their chullahs

Community members were happy to receive their chullahs


Sharda Kamble expressed full faith in Shelter Associates’ social workers and their work with the community. Drawing classes, embroidery lessons, and savings groups have all brought the community members closer to one another. She recalled a public demonstration of the smokeless chullahs done by Shelter last month. One of her neighbors, Vidhya, has already bought a smokeless chullah and is happy to be cooking her family’s food on it. All the local cuisine such as bhakri can be cooked in this way. She mentioned that we tend to stick to our traditional ways regarding cooking, but technology and changing times can shift this tendency. She gave an example of Maghde, a middle-aged housewife, whose health has greatly suffered from the indoor air pollution of smoke-filled kitchens. She also reminded the women how often they get burned from operating a traditional chullah, suggesting that they be prepared for this change to smokeless chullahs. Sharda concluded by stating that whether she is around or not, the women can always count on Shelter Associates for giving good advice!

As the people will be moving into multi-storied buildings, the traditional way of cooking on the wood stove will no longer be feasible. Pratima Joshi articulated this concern, taking into consideration the wish of the women to continue to cook traditional cuisine in their new housing settings. Using smokeless chullahs makes this possible, while drastically improving the health of the women and their families. Clearly, the time for smokeless chullahs is now, as traditions must be thoughtfully adapted to accommodate modern changes.