yai le yangsol yang le . . .
The Rural Building Center in Choglamsar echoes with the lyrical humming yai le yangsol yang le . . . chong le chong, hands working in tandem on the manual block machine, a worker pouring the mixture, the other two pulling the lever and another labourer ready to pick the magical earth block churned out for stacking. Somewhere on the other side few labourers are sieving the soil, synchronizing their movement with the free flowing lyrics and carrying on with their work. The humming never stops and neither does the pace of the labor. The words ‘yai le yangsol yang le’ have no meaning. It is the secret mantra that builds energy and inspires the goodwill for enduring work.
LEDeG’s Rural building center is surrounded by Sabu mountains in the north, Zangtok Pari in the east and snowcapped Stok mountains facing south. A small gompa (monastery) in the east with swinging colorful tarchok (flags holding mantras) keeps offering strength whenever the work decelerates.
An integral component of SEEDS-LEDeG Shelter Project involved constructing houses with stabilized compressed earth blocks (SCEB). The blocks have seven percent of cement mixed with local soil for strength and water resistance. One of the reasons of heavy damage and collapse of building structures during the flash floods was due to the mud mortar used in local mud blocks and stone masonry that was not water resistant and could not hold the blocks properly. The local mud blocks are also irregular in shape with uneven surface as they are produced manually, so gaps are left while filling in the mud mortar.
Labour and procuring the raw material for blocks has not been an easy task. Initially, SEEDS-LEDeG team and volunteers also extended a helping hand in the production of the blocks. Using six manual block-making machines, around forty-five labourers produced sixty two thousand earth blocks in one month.
SEEDS-LEDeG is constructing core shelters including local Ladakhi toilets for families affected by flash flood in Leh-Ladakh using stabilized compressed earth blocks. As the initial phase of house reconstruction comes to an end, the numbers may not be huge but the houses certainly hold promise for a safer future, protecting the families from floods in the region.
SEEDS-LEDeG plan to resume its reconstruction soon after the winter months and more importantly will provide training to local construction workers on new improved compressed earth blocks.