The Bihar Project
Welcome to Bihar
11,000 km down and still in India
Prashant’s native state and leg three of many in the Vasudhaiva Ride. Bihar is the setting for our third, final and most ambitious project that we have undertaken in India.
Bihar is a large, populous state in Northern India that once stood out as a centre of learning, arts and political science. It is the home of Nalanda - the first global university, the birth place of Buddhism at Bodhgaya and of the great mathematician and astronomer Aryabhata - the gentleman who discovered zero.
Sadly, Bihar looks quite different today. Now it is considered a low economic state where poverty has bred corruption; it is also under climactic strain due to its geography.
Many areas of Bihar are developing rapidly, beyond a capacity to maintain proper infrastructure, leading to urban sprawl, pollution and insufficient social services.
However amongst this, there has been social growth: entrepreneurship is flourishing, literacy rates are increasing, and the government is working to address many of these issues, including the historic reopening of Nalanda University itself.
Despite these efforts, there is still much to be done…
The small city of Arrah is known to be an epicentre of Bihar’s issues. It is also Prashant’s home town and the site we have chosen for this, our third project. Rapid migration to Arrah and other such cities from villages tends to leave people under-qualified for the complex demands of urban life. For example, the widespread accessibility of fast moving consumer goods (plastics, bottles, clothes etc.) and lack of awareness for environmental risks has led to pollution and excesses of waste materials in public areas that don’t decompose naturally. Addressing issues like this are vital for Bihar’s rapid urbanisation and development.
This project is inspired by Prashant’s long standing dream of creating a skills development centre in Bihar, to address these very issues he knew growing up.
An adaptation of our Pushkar Project—an affordable human home for $1,500 USD — the Bihar project centred around creating a model self-sufficient home: addressing unplanned, unsustainable development in Arrah, Bihar with integrated systems and clean energy.
Main aims and goals of the project
The Bihar Project is focused on sustainable construction and community resource exchange. The short term goals of this project are to:
- Build with upcycling and self-reliant systems, thus creating a model for accessible, sustainable development to inspire similar habits amongst locals and across Bihar
- Create the foundations for a community skills development centre in Arrah, Bihar
- Engage local community: local youth, colleges, organizations, artists and more
- Form Community for ongoing collaborations in the development of sustainable housing, public art and values-based education in Arrah and Bihar
The construction has been undertaken by a community of local labourers and craftsmen, local architecture students, international travellers and volunteers, artists and us - Ben and Prashant (whichever category we fall into)!
This created a platform for collaborative learning and sharing of ideas and culture.
Prashant has masterminded the design and construction process and Ben has energetically concocted the wonderful team, their processes and community engagement. Volunteers and artists have travelled from all over to lend a hand documenting the project, researching, running social media campaigns and with community programming.
At one point we had members from 5 of the 7 world continents - almost totally global!
The three-story house has been built by local workers and volunteers (who were soaked through both the monsoon period and the heat of the following months). Given that the build started during the wet months of the monsoon season, the construction was initially focused on putting up concrete and brick foundations - sturdy and flood-proof.
Layered on top of the foundations we built walls composed of bricks, glass bottles (6000 of them!) and the wheels of thella push carts - up-cycled to perfection!
Lime-plaster, mud and clay make up the internal architecture. We provided internal structural integrity with the usage of bamboo struts.
The ceiling also makes use of bamboo, as well as hay and mud tiles.
On the top level, we’ve started on a rooftop garden. The garden will provide much of the produce that the inhabitants can sustain themselves with. Additionally, the house will treat its own water and draw on solar and wind power to provide the house with electricity. In this way, the house is mostly self-reliant. The house is also produced from mostly natural and waste materials.
We also bored down for both hand and electric pumps to lend the house potable ground water.
The house will function as a home for a small family (2nd floor) and a community centre (ground floor).
We have seen locals express excitement for the unique design and widespread intrigue for the novel construction.
A future community centre
The house will function primarily as a community centre. This centre will teach important skills to residents of Arrah on how to design and create up-cycled products that they will be able to use or sell. This in turn will educate students of the importance of managing and making use of waste effectively. There will be course that will also provide knowledge of how to run businesses, market and sell products and provide social awareness to understand global issues and their role in them.
In this way, we can help to educate a portion of Bihar on how to live more self-reliantly and take care of their nearby environment.
Changing perspective & community sessions
Upon beginning work in Bihar, it was clear that social norms were being broken. People appeared somewhat confused to see foreigners, educated people, young Indians all together doing labour work, sharing food and living together. What started as lingering groups of local youth became friends that the volunteers knew by name, who helped out with work and evening sessions with local youth. Engaging the local community and sharing the reasoning behind the work ethics and practices is a key goal of the project. This led to a visible shift in perspective for many of the people in the surrounding neighborhood.
An emergent programme of evening sessions takes place regularly just before sunset: children from the surrounding houses come to the site where project volunteers lead programs: study sessions and co-ed games, confidence building activities and more.
This centre will open once Prashant returns to India after the Vasudhaiva Ride, and will remain his (very) long term project.
We are most of the way through construction. The ceiling is up and the interiors are taking shape. We will be finished in the coming weeks. Keep an eye on our social channels for updates!
We cannot do this without you!
We are still hoping to find funds for the renewable systems and to run the community centre.
We believe in the vision of vasudhaiva kutumbakam and we are working towards this by bringing people together for collaborations in peace, sustainable living and community wellbeing.
The Bihar Project is a big step forward, in scale and ambitions.
We are passionate and we need your support.
CONTACT US to become a partner or sponsor of the Bihar Project.
+919764328226 – Prashant Kumar
+918890456206 – Ben Reid-Howells
SUPPORT US ONLINE
Paytm - 9764328226