Everyone dreams of owning a beautiful home. Shagun Singh from Delhi, too, had the same dream but slightly different. She dreamed of living in an environmentally friendly home. So, in 2015, Shagun left her cushy job in Delhi and shifted to Uttarakhand to live in a mud house. A mud house that she learned to make by herself and now teaches others to make them too. According to Shagun, there is a stigma attached to mud homes – people think it is only for the poor. But she has proven otherwise. These mud homes or cob homes can be beyond just a tiny hut – they can be beautiful homes. Today Shagun Singh, the environmentalist, has successfully founded an NGO Geeli Mitti, devoted to building sustainable mud houses as an alternative to modern cement and concrete homes.
Close to your roots
Cob, cobb, or clom is a natural building material made from subsoil, water, fibrous organic material, and lime. The contents of subsoil vary with local availability. Cob is long-lasting, durable, fireproof, resistant to weathering, and easy to repair. They also provide good living conditions at low cost and with positive spiritual energy. Cob homes can last for thousands of years with proper maintenance. In Uttarakhand, cob homes use local soil, cow dung, and lime. Sometimes also involves using trash, in different forms, to convert it into something useful or decorative.
According to Shagun Singh, besides the right mix of materials, there is a technique to build mud houses called the earth-bag technique, that makes these homes stronger. She explains, “The earth-bag technique is extremely important. It is highly beneficial for earthquake-prone areas. Many people don’t know that during the Nepal earthquake, in one area, only one building kept standing while the others collapsed. It was because of the earth-bag technique that it was built with.”
Singh further adds, “It’s a stated fact that cement cannot breathe. You lock a cement house for ten days, and you can’t get inside. The toxins used to maintain carbon emissions to produce that cement is so harmful. Whereas, in naturally built mud houses, you can leave them as it is, and nothing will happen.”
Geeli Mitti- The Changemaker
Geeli Mitti is a training cum research centre for sustainable living and teaches life skills while working on community livelihood generation.
Every year, Shagun organizes a 45-day long workshop at Mahrora near Nainital to teach about 100 participants how to build mud houses. Environmentalists, architects, and advocates of sustainable living from around the world attend the workshop at Geeli Mitti Farms.
Geeli Mitti, is a commitment elevating the world – one house, one planting, one thought, one smile, one soul – at a time!