Is bamboo schools the answer?
Many schools constructed out of concrete or mud were damaged — some completely collapsed, some were not usable while only few could be used after repair and renovation — after the April 25 Gorkha earthquake and its aftershocks. The destruction questioned the education attainment process of many school students, except for those studying at the Samata School.
Many quake-hit schools are running classes in temporary shelters and are yet to construct their own buildings. Sanjel advises such schools to opt for bamboo as building material because “it is easily available at local level and inexpensive too. It is easier to work with bamboo than wood”.
The cost though has increased as compared to 10 years ago, as per Sanjel. “One classroom cost some Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 then as the building materials were cheaper. Now it would cost you some Rs 100,000 to make a standard room — that can accommodate some 60 to 70 students.”
Constructing any structure, we would want it to last long. But what is the reliability of bamboo? “The sun, rain and fire are its prime enemies. So, for a bamboo wall, paint the outer part with wood primer once every two years to protect it from the sun and rain. Use cement plaster from the inside instead of soil to protect it from the insect infestation.”
The other important thing is to make strong foundation for the structure while there should be use of light materials like CGI sheets from above so that it does not create pressure from the above. And be very wary of fire hazard he says. “If you do so, your bamboo structure lasts from 20 to 30 years”.
But not all bamboo are of good quality. “In the initial days, I used bamboo available in Kathmandu but they were not good.” So, Sanjel nowadays brings them from Jhapa.
Can one expand the building to more than one floor? “Why not? You can have a two-storey bamboo building too and it is safe”.
Having said that, he urges, “Earthquake can hit out country any time again. Fortunately, it was Saturday and most schools were closed when the quake struck this time. Had it been some other day,
many students would have died due to the buildings that are not earthquake-resistant. So, I want to say that if we want to keep our children safe, opt for the bamboo schools.”