118 years of Trust THE TRIBUNE

Sunday, August 23, 1998
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Building prefabricated houses

A prefabricated building with a flat roof in Delhi’s Santushti shopping complex

By Nirmal Sandhu

A three-bedroom house in four weeks? Not unbelievable if built with prefabricated material. The cost is about 40 per cent less than that of a conventional house. It is eco-friendly. An earthquake cannot easily bring down the roof on your head. Want to move in? Well, the whole house can be dismantled and shifted in one truck. Prefabricated structures are fast coming up, particularly in hill areas.

Where is the catch then, I asked myself as I listened to Brig P.P.S Dhillon, listing advantages of what is called " the Ezibilt housing system" launched first in Australia and now in India by Delhi-based Walco Engineering Ltd. which the retired Brigadier serves as a Marketing Adviser.

"It is so popular abroad that I see no reason, why it should not be here," he asserted.One of the prefabricated huts in the shopping complex

The catch, I tried to figure out, could be in the comparatively shorter life span of such houses — it’s 50 years.

We Indians emotionally build our dream houses not only for ourselves but also for generations to come. A house is supposed to be a family’s pride and neighbour’s envy. Dismantling it doesn’t go well with our emotional make-up. Elders prefer to die in houses where they have spent their life time.

"That concept is changing with nuclear families and transferable jobs", countered Brigadier Dhillon. "Moreover, when you sell an old house, you get only the plot’s price. After retirement one can cart away the house to a place where one likes to settle."

To remove doubts, he showed the prefabricated house and office of Ms Sonu Singh in the Industrial Area of Chandigarh.

"For six years I have lived in this house and faced no problem", she said. "Because of insulated panels a 1.5 tonne AC can cool the whole house. It is built on a 1,000 sq ft. plinth area complete with electrical and sanitary things, flooring (PVC) and painting — all at a cost of about Rs 5 lakh.

"Where else have you raised such houses," I asked Brigadier Dhillon.

"Walco Engineering has put up prefab huts at the construction site of the Nathpa Jhakri hydel project at Kotla - Jeuri in Himachal which are occupied by Italians and Canadians working on the project. We have supplied these structures to the defence authorities. The Santushti shopping complex opposite Ashok Hotel in New Delhi is also built of prefabricated huts."

The roof is comparatively low at 8 feet. Prefab huts are considered ideal for cottages, schools, offices, barracks , restaurants, farm houses and beach resorts.

A mini Switzerland in HP

By Balkrishan Prashar

KHAJJIAR, a tiny tourist resort situated at an altitude of 1951 metres and 24 km from Chamba and Dalhousie, was christened mini Switzerland by Swiss envoy Willy P. Blazer on July 7, 1992. This little-known tourist spot in Chamba district was put on the international map by the Swiss envoy.

In the presence of Indian officials P. Blazer put up a yellow Swiss hiking footpath signboard which formally and officially declared Khajjiar as mini Switzerland. The signboard also indicates the actual distance from the Swiss capital Berne upto Khajjiar as 6194 km.

Blazer, as per the tradition of his country, had taken a stone from Khajjiar which was made a part of a stone sculpture installed opposite the Parliament mansion in Berne.

Places all over the world similar to Switzerland in respect of geographical and topographical traits and scenic elegance are named after it. Hence Khajjiar became the 160th tourist spot in the world to be christened mini Switzerland.

Surrounded by the ever-verdant deodars, oaks and pine trees, Khajjiar nestles in the foothills of the Dhauladhar ranges of the western Himlayas. The dish-shaped Khajjiar is set against the backdrop of dense forests and a lush green meadow.

Sensuousness and beauty of Keat’s poetry and Wordsworth’s belief in quietness and strength of nature come alive and are perceptibly felt at Khajjiar.

One can reach Khajjiar from both Dalhousie and Chamba by travelling for 24 km. Travelling by bus or motor car along a narrow zigzag road makes the journey pleasant and adventurous but dicey too in the foggy rainy season. From the Pathankot railway station, Khajjiar is about 95 km whereas it is 130 km from the nearest airport at Gaggal in Kangra.

I costumes. They do not violate their ageold cultural, traditional and social norms.

Khajjiar has so far remained unspoilt despite the excesses Khajjiar had been endowed with a beautiful bowl-shaped natural lake in the midst of the meadow which adds to the delight of visitors who come to see it from the world over. This is one of six famous natural lakes in Himachal Pradesh. This lake remains full of water in all seasons. However, it freezes in the peak of winter. It requires no rain water for survival. For a close view, it has been made accessible with the help of a wooden bridge. The lake has also been provided a small wooden shelter at one end of the bridge near its bank. Water in the lake is still. A tiny island covered with reeds, keeps floating mysteriously on it. Local people attribute its floating to divine reasons.

Apparently baptising Khajjiar as mini Switzerland is not enough. Attention towards beautification and maintenance in the future are bound to matter. The lake is fast turning into a marsh and the red algae moss has almost covered the whole of the lake. This deterioration is due to sheer neglect and laxity on the part of the Himachal Pradesh Government. A complete check on cattle grazing, horse-riding and construction of unruly and unwarranted commercial establishments on the meadow precincts can help give it a new lease of life.

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