The far-flung area of Gosaba — infamous for women widowed by man-eating tigers — will now be on the global map for an entirely different reason. It will have Asia's first hospital built entirely of sand-filled plastic bottles and fishing nets instead of brick and mortar.
Probably one of the restaurants you dined in at the city and the bottle you left behind after your meal is now holding up the hospital walls. The 30-bed facility is nearly complete and will be inaugurated on October 15.
Adequate medical aid in the Sunderbans is still inaccessible, resulting in avoidable deaths due to snakebites, crocodile attacks and tiger attacks. Now with this hospital in the offing, victims who previously needed to be brought to the city, a 135-km drive from there, can have much relief.
Construction with used bottles filled with sand (Source: Kalimpong News)
A unique venture
Built by Goa-based NGO Samarpan, not a single brick or iron rod has been used in its construction. The eco-friendly idea is the brainchild of engineer and architect, Patrick San Francesco. This method of construction has not only been faster than one with conventional materials, but has also cut costs of transporting bricks and iron rods to this remote area of the Sunderbans.
Used bottles were obtained from restaurants in Kolkata at Rs 6.50 per bottle, cutting down on costs from the conventional Rs 14 per brick. Expenses have been further reduced by 60% with the usage of fishing nets as the roof. Francesco also advised against using bricks and iron rods since they would corrode easily in the saline conditions of the Sunderbans.
Built on a seven-and-half-cottah plot in Gosaba's Bijoynagar Island, the hospital has three single-storeyed buildings. One of them houses a two-bed ICU and the hospital’s administrative block. Four general wards, one each to treat tiger, crocodile and snakebite victims, will be spread across the other two buildings. The first phase will see an OPD, ten doctors on board and two boats that will serve as mobile medical camps.
A cause well served
Manisha and Sangeeta Ganeriwalla thought of building a hospital on visiting the Sunderbans after the cyclone Aila devastated it in 2009. The hospital, which will be run entirely on charity and will offer free treatment to all islanders, is a great initiative for the rural masses who are otherwise deprived of basic medical aid. Samarpan runs projects on education and healthcare elsewhere in the country.
Sundarban Tiger Reserve (STR), in association with Samarpan, regularly organizes medical camps in the periphery of the forest. Free medicines are distributed at these camps. The hospital will be of great service to people living in such remote islands of the mangrove delta.
Top image source: Kalimpong News