Better Bhalswa
Delhi, India
image: Gunraagh Singh Talwar | © all rights reserved
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Location:
Delhi, India
Category:
health & sanitation
Phase:
design development
Updated:
17 September 2021
Communities living around Delhi’s Bhalswa landfill are subject to the worst living conditions in the city. High densities with little infrastructure in the surrounding informal settlements aggravate the problem. Our on-ground initiative aspires to foster and revamp leftover open spaces. Working with the community to improve their healthcare and sanitation access while providing them dignified open spaces is the idea of making Bhalswa better.
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Introduction
Delhi’s Bhalswa Landfill caters to over half of the city’s generated waste, in turn choking its surrounding ecosystem. The area is prone to the worst living conditions in the city, with water pollution levels over thirty times the acceptable values, and hazardous AQI levels throughout the year. Yet, the place isn’t uninhabited. Instead, it is home to over 200,000 people who bear the brunt of the urban situation while receiving bare minimum support from authorities. 


One such community abutting the landfill is Kalandar Colony, a settlement of 2264 households with densities as high as 2630 people a hectare. Of the 13% of the area that is open space, the community is unable to maintain its interstitial open spaces which end up prone to vandalism and antisocial activity. The generated ill-kempt and unsafe environment also bar certain members of the community from accessing peripheral public amenities such as toilets and healthcare centers with caretakers reporting a very low turnout especially with women, children, and the elderly. 


In the wake of the pandemic when access to public amenities is critical in upkeeping a community’s vitality, the need for thoughtful interventions at these liminal spaces is of essence and urgency. Incorporating key stakeholders within the core team, and further engaging in a participatory process with the community, the initiative aspires to create inclusive and dignified public spaces for all while aspiring to accelerate access to public amenities.
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Impact
Living by the toxicity of the Bhalswa landfill in a hyperdense settlement, the community faces an acute challenge of fostering healthy spaces. Through frugal means and self-organization, the community is able to make use of smaller pockets of this available open space. Larger pockets, such as spaces around public amenities are ill-maintained and thus underutilized. Herein, the team finds it essential to preserve, and invigorate these public spaces as a means to fostering a dignified life for the community. 


Revamping open spaces also has a direct impact on accelerating access to healthcare and sanitation facilities. Rani, Shankar, and Mohit, all individually claim that the community isn’t able to access the public amenities owing to the existing condition of the interstitial space. By dignified access to these amenities is the intent of catalyzing their use and adoption by the community. 


Neglect regarding waste management is a governing factor to the existing condition of the open spaces. Through sensitization and tactical urbanism, the proposal aspires to tackle the root cause and motivate the community towards waste segregation and disposal. The value is also endowed through the construction process where through the adoption of techniques such as earthbags and using salvaged material, waste is utilized to create value for the community. 


The adopted techniques are examples of lo-fab demanding little material investment but an increased workforce. The team thinks of construction also as an opportunity for skill development and community reform.
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Core team
Gunraagh

The community and team-first interacted through Gunraagh’s research project - Landfills and the City carried during his time at architecture school in 2018. Sensitized by the people’s plight, Gunraagh has been essential in creating a liaison with the community and authorities.


Ipsita & Eish 

Teaming up with Ipsita and Eish, two young designers based in the city, the initiative led to extensive community engagement and urban study. Curious individuals with a knack for detail and visualization, the duo is responsible for bringing the team’s ideas to life. 


Peeyush & Pradeep

The team found a standing with the community through the efforts of Peeyush Yadav and Pradeep Sharma, founders of an on-ground organization - Ek Nayi Duniya Yuvaon ki Foundation (ENDKYF). The duo are especially vital in community mobilisation and solidifying the initiative’s interaction with the youth. 


Rani & Prince

The team’s effort in visualizing and implementing the project were acknowledged by increased participation of the community in hosted meetings. One such meeting introduced the team to Rani and Prince, responsible for maintaining the public toilet. Interactions with Rani since then have revealed an array of problems the community faces including safety and security, drug-abuse, and health and hygiene. 


Dr. Neeraj, Mohit, & Vijendra

Working at the public healthcare centre established for the community, the doctor and his medical staff are perturbed by the plight of the people. Understanding waste management to be the root cause, the trio has worked to sensitize the people and upkeep the area.
Meet the Team

image: Gunraagh Singh Talwar, Ipsita Choudhury | © all rights reserved
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Image gallery
Over 200,000 people at Bhalswa suffer the direct brunt of the Bhalswa landfill

image: Gunraagh Singh Talwar | CC-BY-NC-ND_black.png some rights reserved
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Community engagement at Bhalswa was catalysed with the efforts of Peeyush and Pradeep of ENDKYF

image: Gunraagh Singh Talwar | © all rights reserved
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The community meetings saw increased support through months of engagement. To help the community visualize the idea of a community shed built around existing infrastructure better was the idea of a quick experiment using tarpaulin.

image: Gunraagh SIngh talwar, Nishtha Kashyap, Ipsita Choudhury | © all rights reserved
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Using scaled models, the community could better understand the implications of the intervention

image: Nishtha Kashyap | © all rights reserved
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The community meeting in October 2020 was a success with the people intent on a solution to their problems.

image: Nishtha Kashyap | © all rights reserved
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Over the coming few months, the authorities began dumping inert soil from the landfill transforming the dynamics of the site

image: Gunraagh Singh Talwar | © all rights reserved
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The team decided to shift focus on developing solutions to an abandoned park within the community

image: Gunraagh Singh Talwar | © all rights reserved
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The park space was visualized as a sociable inclusive space for all within the community. With material studies utilizing inert soil available free from the landfill was adopted as a possible material technique.

image: Eish Ahlawat | © all rights reserved
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To engage the community better and understand their desires regarding the space, the team developed a scaled model with the reference of a toffee as an earth bag

image: Gunraagh Singh Talwar, Ipsita Choudhury | © all rights reserved
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Using the built model, the team engaged in meaningful dialogue with the community trying to understand their requirements for the space

image: Gunraagh Singh Talwar, Ipsita Choudhury | © all rights reserved
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The community meeting was an important step in gaining the people's trust and understanding

image: Gunraagh Singh Talwar, Ipsita Choudhury | © all rights reserved
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Following a roadblock leading to earthbags not being possible construction method before monsoon, the community suggested procuring salvaged brick from the landfill

image: Gunraagh Singh Talwar | © all rights reserved
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For the following week, the community and the team built the park's entrance together. The community was also engaged through plantation drives.

image: Gunraagh Singh Talwar | © all rights reserved
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Building the park's entrance as an enclosure with a tree and seating was devised through community participation.

image: Gunraagh Singh Talwar | © all rights reserved
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Rani and Prince take care of the public toilet at Bhalswa. The toilet is amongst the few amenities provided by the government, but is barely accessible owing to the condition of the ground leading to it.

image: Gunraagh Singh Talwar | © all rights reserved
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Community engagement at Bhalswa was catalysed with the efforts of Peeyush and Pradeep of ENDKYF

image: Gunraagh Singh Talwar | © all rights reserved
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Designed with the community at Bhalswa is the idea for a social centre - an adda designed by upcycling and repurposing waste material.

image: Eish Ahlawat | © all rights reserved
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Mohit and Vijender assist at the public healthcare centre where a major part of the community doesn't turn up for check-ups or vaccination owing to the unsanitary condition of the junction in front of it.

image: Gunraagh Singh Talwar | © all rights reserved
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Through simple and minimal intervention, the junction is revamped as a public plaza focusing on waste segregation and disposal along with amenities for the community's recreation

image: Eish Ahlawat | © all rights reserved
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The junction has the potential to be a public plaza with considerations for the community and additional amenities for their use

image: Eish Ahlawat | © all rights reserved
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Technical drawings
Bhalswa is Delhi’s waste sink, catering to over 50% of the city’s waste

image: Gunraagh Singh Talwar | CC-BY-SA_black.png some rights reserved
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At Bhalswa, the landfill chokes the ecosystem making life difficult for the people

image: Gunraagh Singh Talwar | © all rights reserved
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Kalandar Colony, a settlement of 2264 households suffers a direct brunt of the landfill

image: Gunraagh Singh Talwar | © all rights reserved
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The administration has developed amenities for the community, but these aren’t really accessed by the people

image: Gunraagh Singh Talwar | © all rights reserved
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The proposal aspires to accelerate the community’s access to healthcare and sanitation facilities with minimal intervention

image: Gunraagh Singh Talwar | © all rights reserved
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The space around the public toilet is unkempt and prone to anti-social activity

image: Google Satellite | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
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Rani takes care of the public toilet at Bhalswa. Help her make Bhalswa better.

image: Gunraagh Singh Talwar | © all rights reserved
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The team aspires to invigorate the space around the toilet through minimal intervention and simple steps while engaging a larger community in process.

image: Ipsita Choudhury | © all rights reserved
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The space is envisioned as a social centre for the community with spaces for seating, leisure, eating, and recreation.

image: Ipsita Choudhury | © all rights reserved
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The space around the toilet block is envisioned as a social centre for the community.

image: Ipsita Choudhury | © all rights reserved
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The junction at the Public healthcare centre and public toilet is a second site for intervention

image: Google Satellite | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
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Mohit assists at the public healthcare centre at Bhalswa. Help him make Bhalswa better.

image: Gunraagh Singh Talwar | © all rights reserved
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The junction is envisioned as a public plaza featuring amenities for the community. This is carried out through minimal intervention with very simple steps.

image: Gunraagh Singh Talwar | © all rights reserved
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The junction is envisioned as a public plaza segregating pedestrian and vehicular movement. The plaza can serve as an extension to the healthcare centre, or for community activities such as evening schools and workshops.

image: Gunraagh Singh Talwar, Google Satellite | © all rights reserved
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Market studies and community engagement have led to the preparation of a matrix suggesting possible material techniques. As the community fears vandalism, using the landfill's inert soil or salvaged materials such as bricks , struts, and steel are sustain

image: Gunraagh Singh Talwar | © all rights reserved
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Inert Soil from the Landfill is the most sustainable technique to empower community through lo-fab

image: Gunraagh Singh Talwar | © all rights reserved
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Broken China and Ceramic Tiles can be repurposed through china mosaic as Waste Lines or a surface finish

image: Gunraagh Singh Talwar | © all rights reserved
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Salvaged Bricks are quicker to work with and can be used by anyone while contributing industry relevant masonry skills. Debris can be filled in seating areas and topped off in China Mosaic.

image: Gunraagh Singh Talwar | © all rights reserved
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The team imagines construction as a means for community upliftment through skill development

image: Ipsita Choudhury | © all rights reserved
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The team thinks of construction as a means for empowering the community through skill development. As a forum to bring people from the city to interact with the people of Bhalswa, the construction workshop is also a means to establish dialogue.

image: Ipsita Choudhury | © all rights reserved
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Help bring our project to life!
17 September 2021
A chunk of the landfill collapsed in late August!
A chunk of the Bhalswa landfill collapsed over several houses on 23rd August 2021

We've been working towards immediate relief, and have successfully helped the affected communities rebuild their plinths and restore their water supply. 

This has been possible through generous donations towards our fundraiser
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Help bring our project to life!
Where are we now
Through a year of on-ground work involving community engagement, mobilization, and participatory building, the team has gained invaluable trust and recognition within the community. As an initiative with a seed fund of $500 provided by the OAN Grants Program 2020, the team has always focused on doing more with less, relying on a minimal intervention mode and on locally available resources especially deemed waste material. We are currently working on revamping a park within the community as a community center for capacity building. Through the building program, the team has recognized talents and skills existing within the community and the possibility of skill development.
An indication of our team’s capacity:
13% funding already raised
50% expertise already found
13% materials / equipment already found
50% builders already found
Finance: € 3,616
Every penny invested in the initiative goes towards making Bhalswa Better. The practice adopts a lo-fab ideology to building with negligible material costs and investment. A major pool of the project’s costs goes directly to the community’s urban poor as wages while also using the act of building as a means for skill development and capacity building. Another portion goes into ecological restoration carried out through plantation drives and landscaping. Adopted techniques such as earthbags utilize existing waste material at Bhalswa including legacy soil from the landfill towards community building.
  • Worker Wages (€10 pp/day for 6 weeks)
2,100
  • Quicklime for Surface and Plaster (€6/bag)
180
  • Salvaged Ceramic Tiles for Waste Lines (€2/sac)
100
  • Salvaged Bricks for Plinth-work
100
  • Plastic Sacs for Earth Bag (€1/20)
200
  • Jute Bags for Earth Bags (€1/10 bags)
400
  • Barbed Wire for Earth Bags (€20/100 ft)
100
  • Construction Sand (€10 per rickshaw)
150
  • Steel Corrugate Sheet for Community Shed (€12/shee
36
  • Metal Sections for Steelwork (€10/30ft)
50
  • Plants and Trees for landscape (€2/Plant)
200
Skills: Technique, Planning & Management
As young architects and designers collaborating with community representatives, the team would appreciate project planning and management advice along with suggestions in material techniques and execution strategy. Suggestions on waste management, upcycling strategies, and recycling are also welcome. Since the project has a direct impact on the community's wash and health access along with the potential for skill development and empowerment, any suggestions would directly contribute to the project.
Stuff: Materials, Equipment & tools
The project in its construction and implementation phase aspires to procure all materials, either salvaged or new from within Bhalswa to contribute to the local economy and community. Since a large part of the project revolves around sustainability through waste upcycling and reuse, the team would appreciate any in-kind material donations.

So far, the team has implemented solutions using tools available within the community. The unavailability of tools and equipment such as wheelbarrows and spades has often delayed the project. The project would accelerate with in-kind donations of wheelbarrows, cargo rickshaw, and equipment. Any other donations from the list of materials provided in the funds' breakdown are also equally appreciated.
You can help us by donating materials as well!

image: Gunraagh Singh Talwar | © all rights reserved
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Hands
Through the project's initiation to where it is today, volunteers have helped us cover greater ground and bring in a fresh pool of ideas towards a better implementation. Our idea towards the community intervention is as flexible and adapting to the community's suggestion as it is to a volunteer's. As a volunteer you can find your own place within the project and explore possibilities for yourself. For young designers and practitioners searching for some on-ground construction experience and material exploration, the forum is a perfect match. Beyond skill, however, the team seeks a sense of curiosity and interest within any individual volunteering.
Call for Volunteers

image: Ipsita Choudhury | © all rights reserved
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Help bring our project to life!
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