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Snehal Khatavkar
Design researcher. Design strategist


Role: Structural design, Problem research - deriving livelihood opportunities through secondary research

Project type : Competition  Organized by SEARCH trust NGO (shortlisted entry) 

Year: 2020

Taral (instability)  a word of Sanskrit origin very aptly describes the havoc caused by the frequent flooding, rising sea levels, and cyclones  in the islands of sunder bans. The project focuses on proposing disaster resilient solutions to aid the people of sunder bans in leading a life free from forced migration, poverty, risk to life while preventing further ecological imbalance.

The design approach strives to bring about holistic development of the region. 

Fluid landscapes | Fluid solutions 



Sundarbans is a mangrove area in the delta formed by the confluence of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna Rivers in the Bay of Bengal. 

The most devastated region because of the tropical cyclones is the Sundarbans  because of a Complex web of interdependent factors - 

Fragile ecosystem | complex geography |  presence of sizable settlements. 

We realized the safety of the homestead heavily relied on coastal erosion protection and strong embankments to counter land diminishing issues and flooding. The flood salinates the land rendering it unfit for agricultural activities forcing the residents to migrate  to islands away from the shore. The frequent disasters have induced poverty in the society which makes it even more vulnerable.

We realized the homestead is not secure without holistic land development plans. The residents needed post disaster support that helps  them recover from the capital loss. 

Double embankment section 

Coastal erosion and protection 

Riverbank protection through mangrove regeneration 

Cyclone resilient shelter 

Home offering alternative livelihood opportunities 


Where flowing water decides the fate of houses and people, the proposal attempts at bringing permanence to the ‘Bhitte’ and providing opportunity for holistic development of land and humans - Annu Jalais



Typical section with homestead, farmland, drain channels Mud beds in catchment area for prawn collection to reduce the entry into forests and sea. 



Resilience - degree of safety 

  • Float – reduces economic loss and avoids unhygienic surroundings post disaster 

  • Pack – Modular design elements can be demounted and taken away at refuge area/relocation

  • Quick-recovery – Provision of a granary as an asset, safe refuge area for food security and storage     post-disaster

Sustainable | affordable 

  • Livelihood - Homestead production systems and mangrove plantation to combat coastal-erosion

  • Energy and Water Security - Biogas, sewage-treatment and rainwater harvesting

  • Composite Structure – Employing local materials,  local construction-techniques and craftsmanship


  • Composite – Combination of prefabricated modular elements and local craft

  •  Replicable – Can be adapted for various configurations

  • Community Based Solution - Can be implemented by private-public partnership as well as by governmental agencies

The houses are designed on raised plinths following the projected low floodine. To counter the high floodline the houses are designed to float on water via a string and empty can mechanism. The outer structure of the house is the permanent frame within which the inner envelope slides up during floods


  • Annu Jalais, Amites Mukhopadhyay. SEARCH Conversations #07 Suptendu Biswas. 7 July 2020.

  • Trust for Search - SEARCH Conversations #07 | Sundarbans-- Nature, Culture and People | Facebook

  • Ganguly, Rupa. "Role of Solar Passive Techniques in Vernacular Houses in West Bengal, India." Journal of Basic and Applied Engineering Research, Volume 2, Number 12, (April 2015): 1045-1050. PDF

  • IIT Kharagpur. "Hazard Asssessment and Distaster Mitigation for West Bengal Due To Tropical Cyclones." Investigative Study. September 2006. PDF.


  • Kanksha Mahadevia, Mayank Vikas. "Climatic Change-Impact on the Sundarbans: A Case Study." International Scientific Journal of Environmental Science (2014): 7-15. PDF document.

  • Martijn F. van Staveren, Jeroen F. Warner and M. Shah Alam Khan. "Bringing in the Tides: From Closing-down to Opening-up Delta Polders via Tidal River Management in the Southwest Delta of Bangladesh." Water Policy 19 (2017): 147–164. PDF document.

  • Nayana Singh, Vishal Kumar, Ankur. "Disaster Resilient Design Strategies through Vernacular Practices: Case Study of Majuli Island and Bakkhali, India." 6th Annual International Conference on Architecture and Civil Engineering (ACE 2018). Ed. Bhopal SPA. Singapore: GSTF, 2018. 538-547. PDF.

  • Rashid, Masud Ur. "The Changing Patterns of Rural House Form in Floating and Permanent Households in Sirajganj." Journal on Today’s Ideas –Tomorrow’s Technologies, Vol. 3, No. 1, (June 2015): 1–25. PDF.

  • S. Mandal, D. Burman, S. K. Sarangi, B. K. Bandyopadhyay and B. Maji. "Homestead Production Systems in Sundarbans Region of West Bengal, India- Current Status and Opportunies." Revitalizing the Ganges Coastal Zone: Turning Science into Policy and Practices, At Dhaka, Bangladesh. Dhaka, Bangladesh: ResearchGate, May 2015.

  • Satyajit Dhara, Dr. Ashis K Paul. "Embankment Breaching and its impact on Local Community in Indian Sundarban, “A Case Study of Some Blocks of South West Sundarban”." IJISET - International Journal of Innovative Science, Engineering & Technology, Vol. 3 Issue 2 (February 2016): 23-32. PDF document.

  • Sheltercluster. "Detailed Shelter Response Profile: BANGLADESH | Local Building Cultures for Sustainable and Resilient Habitats." September 2018.

  • World Bank. Building Resilence for Sustainable Development of Sunderbans. Strategy Report. Washington, USA: World Bank, 2014. Report No. 88061 - IN PDF


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