June 2008

Satprem Maïni, Director of the Auroville Earth Institute was invited by the Nepalese Ministry of Education and Sports from the 9th to the 13th of June 2008 to explore a technology transfer to Nepal for building earthquake resistant schools. The Nepalese government needs to build 50,000 classrooms in the next 5 years and wanted to have an introduction on alternate possibilities with stabilised earth to build earthquake resistant schools which can also be climate responsive.

The whole programme was coordinated by Mr. Sonam Wangchuk who works for MS Nepal and BASE (Backward Society Education). This event was also conducted in coordination by DANIDA (Danish Development Aid) and the Embassy of Denmark at Kathmandu. We would like to thank the people and officers from the Ministry and Department of Education and Sport for organising and hosting this event, especially Mr. Shambhu Prasad Uprety, Senior Divisional Engineer of the Department of Education, who coordinated these two days of workshop flawlessly.

The 9th, 10th and the morning of the 11th of June were spent at Jantanagar, where Mr. Sonam Wangchuk was building a classroom for BASE, as a first prototype, with CSEB, ferrocement channels and climate responsive features. Mr. Sonam Wangchuk and Mr. Nirmal Kumar Tharu have already come for a two weeks training course at Auroville and they returned with an Auram Press 3000 to start their project.

Sonam and Nirmal started the block production at Jantanagar and were doing very well. Satprem corrected a few things for block making, especially for the mix quality and the organisation of the team for better productivity. The stabilised rammed earth foundation started and Satprem made some adjustments for the mix. This school building was a joint programme of MS Nepal and BASE and the village was contributing with free work force. The villagers were enthusiastic with the CSEB and were enjoying working together for their school made of earth. This acceptation by the villagers for the CSEB was easily done, as Jantanagar village was mostly built with adobes with a few wattle and daub houses.

The 12th and 13th of June were spent at Kathmandu for conducting two workshops on earthquake resistant and climatic responsive buildings. Satprem presented the Auroville technologies with stabilised earth for earthquake resistance and Sonam Wangchuk presented his experience in Ladakh and how to make climatic responsive buildings.

The first day was at the Department of Education and Sports. It was a technical session with about 30 engineers, architects and professionals from the Ministry of Education and Sports, Nepali Earthquake Society, Engineering University, etc.
There was a lot of interest about the various stabilised earth technologies developed by the Auroville Earth Institute, especially for their earthquake resistance. A research program was envisaged to be jointly conducted/organised with Nepalese agencies, Indian Universities and Auroville.

The workshop of 13th June was at the Ministry of Education and Sports and about 30 officials, decision and policy makers as well as engineers were present from the Ministry of Education and Sports, World Bank, DANIDA, Embassy of Denmark, Save the Children and MS Nepal. The workshop was less technical than the first day as the focus was more on exploring policies and what the key issues were for setting up the programme of building 50,000 classrooms and transferring the technologies of Auroville as well as the experience of Sonam Wangchuk with climatic responsive buildings.

The overall feedback of these workshops was extremely positive. Officers from the Ministry of Education and Sports would like to send a group to Auroville for training. Now funds have to be raised and the technology transfer set up when the Nepali government will be ready for it.

About Sonam Wangchuk

He is an Indian national from Ladakh, trans-Himalayan region, and he is currently working in Nepal for MS Nepal, as Education Advisor for EFP/BASE Bardiya. Though a Mechanical Engineer by education, he has been mostly working in the field of education reform for the last 20 years. He has been on the National Governing Council of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (EFA) in India and has also supported the Hill Council Government in Ladakh as an advisor for education. In 1988, he founded SECMOL in Ladakh (Students Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh), which aimed to reform the educational system of Ladakh. Sonam also specialised in solar passive systems and low cost solar water heaters.
Sonam was granted several awards, such as: India Real Heroes Award by CNN IBN Channel in 2008, Green Teacher Award by Sanctuary Asia Magazine in 2005, Ashoka Fellowship by Ashoka: Innovators for the Public in 2002, Man of the Year by The Week magazine India in 2001 and the Governors Medal, J&K State Government, India in 1996.


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