Thursday, August 04, 2005

Knee high water? Bring it on!

Dilip D'Souza reports on the amazing resilience of squatters. This is the kind of attitude squatters must have: Knee-high water? no problem, bring it on!

As Dilip explains, when people first came to the Mumbai community called Mandala twenty years ago, it was a large marsh. They set up little homes and brought in truckloads of mud to fill the land over the years. Their homes began with plastic and tarp shacks, moved up to tin. Eventually many homes were made of brick. All in all, Dilip reports, Mohammed Umar, a typical resident, spent Rs 80,000 on his house--about $1,400.

Early this year, the Mumbai authorities demolished the community and posted guards on the site to prevent people returning. And where did the guards come from? "From right here in Mandala, in those huts over there", says Mohammed, pointing to a section of his neighborhood which remains intact.

Now, despite the record-setting deadly monsoon rains, Mohammed is building again, on the rubble on which he once lived. He expects to spend about Rs 5000 (or about $100) to make a minimally livable abode from bamboo poles and plastic sheeting.

He has not given up hope.

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