Can Floating Homes Replace Slums?
As concerns over the limited supply of land to develop urban housing grew, planners were forced to resort to innovations. Forty-five-year-old 'Floating Dutchman' Koen Olthuis knew exactly how to deal with the problem. He founded his company Waterstudio in 2003, which in his words is "the first modern architecture firm to exclusively build floating houses". The Hague-based company has completed “more than 200 floating homes and offices, many of them in the Netherlands, where several floating neighborhoods have sprung up in the last decade” reported The New York Times.
His concept is fast gaining ground across borders.
“The team’s designs have gone global, with showcases ranging from exclusive floating islands in Dubai and the Maldives for the super-rich, to more modest designer homes in Europe and the United States, to projects like the floating container, called City App, that will serve as an education center in the poorest neighborhoods in Asia,” says The New York Times report.
His recent initiative is to rehabilitate the residents of Bangladesh’s largest slum Korail Bosti in floating homes that offer internet accessibility and community kitchens. This may be a convincing thought at a time when urban planners find rising sea-levels and water-caused tragedies too great to deal with. Every year, water-related tragedies – typhoons, tsunamis, hurricane, cyclones and floods—displace millions of people across the globe every year. But one can also not deny the many benefits the new-age technology offers. And, then, these homes offer safety against risks.
“The buildings are constructed on a floating foundation, which makes them flood-proof, affordable and independent of expensive real estate, although obtaining building permits can be tricky,” says the report.
For a country like India, where unplanned and large-scale urban development has been giving birth to new slums practically every day, such a technology could change things to a great extent. In fact, floating homes could offer great assistance in dealing with financial capital Mumbai’s slum and related woes. It is worth mentioning here that Mumbai is home to Dharavi, counted among the largest slums in Asia where government-funded redevelopment plans have achieved only little success so far.
“If I were to build only floating islands for the wealthy, I would only make 150 happy people in the next 20 years … If we use this technology also to upgrade slums, we can change the lives of millions,” New York Times quoted Olthuis as saying. This could be true in the Indian context, too.