Learning in Leh

Day 3 AM: Learning from the Past – An INTACH presentation on the 2010 floods


This morning Tara Sharma  came to present INTACH’s (Indian National Trust for Arts Cullture & Heritage) post flood findings to the group.

Here’s a summary of the key points from the presentation and following discussion:

Newer Buildings were at increased risk of damage in the floods. Of the houses INTACH surveyed 79% of houses under 50 years suffered damage in the flood, whilst the figure was only 21% for houses older than 50 years. There was no major damage to heritage sites (some of these mud buildings date back to 11th Century, displaying the longevity of mud construction).

Site selection & changes in land use have increased risk

Traditional belief systems did not allow construction on clay or sandy soils and sites vulnerable to flooding. With the introduction of concrete construction, the belief is now that you can construct anywhere, including along streams.

Changes in building design have increased risk

The old vernacular in Ladakh consisted of stone masonry on the ground floor, mud on upper floors, tapered walls, and small window openings.

The new vernacular consists of a concrete frame with straight walls, infill construction, and cement copings. This kind of construction was at increased risk of damage in the flood, and is at increased risk of collapse in earthquakes.

Local construction knowledge is dying and there is a real need to draw on local skills and knowledge, and not just to rely on migrant labour. Without local knowledge, there has been a loss in the quality of building and reduced soundness in construction.

Learning from the disaster – Ladakh needs:

–       Better planning and building guidelines – to ensure higher quality construction and safe site selection.

–       To build pride in their own traditions – Inspiring examples of contemporary architecture in mud  to show that mud architecture can be a modern material. This is an opportunity missed in hotel construction in the region which has largely used concrete.

–       A disaster management strategy