Ongee Shelter Design
Ethno-Architectural Post Tsunami reconstruction of Ongee shelters at Dugong Creek in collaboration with the Ongee community members
On 26th January 2004 a powerful undersea quake measuring 9 on the Richter scale struck off the coast of Banda Aceh and resulted in a destructive tsunami. This wave crashed ashore along insular South East Asia, including along the coast of Little Andaman, the home of the Ongee tribal community which was severely affected. The tsunami destroyed the Ongee settlement at Dugong Creek, Little Andaman. Fortunately on observing the water receding the Ongees ran into the forest and escaped the destructive wave. Immediately after the tsunami Dr.Vishvajit Pandya, an leading authority on the Ongees, led a fact finding mission on their status. In the discussions, the Ongees communicated that they would like to move back to their traditional shelters 'koraley' constructed at a location chosen by them.
Based on this fact finding mission a proposal was presented and accepted by the Andaman & Nicobar Administration to help develop a new settlement for the Ongees of Dugong Creek based on their vernacular architecture and cultural needs. A prototype was built at Raj Nivas, Port Blair incorporating ecologically appropriate and culturally sensitive design in consultation with a small group of Ongees who had come down for this purpose. On their suggestions some modifications were made and incorporated into the design. With the Ongees approving the design, the permission was given for the construction of actual settlement at Dugong Creek at a new site away from the coastline and at a height. The settlement and the 'Koraley' in it were constructed with the active cooperation of the Ongees. This is a positive sign that they are taking responsibility and ownership for their own future and moving towards a form of cultural assertion.
The Ongee Shelter Design team consisted of Dr.Vishvajit Pandya, Kuntal De, Anirban Dutta Gupta along with members from AAJVS and Andaman & Nicobar Administration and the Ongee community of Dugong Creek, Little Andaman. I was involved in documenting the process. Material copyright belongs to AAJVS. The copyright of the film 'Tsunami:Wave of Disaster' belongs to Fact Based Communication, UK.