Quake-proof homes cry for renovation

Statesman News Service
KALIMPONG, March 29. — Not a single iron nail is used. Moreover, it’s earthquake-proof as well as sound-proof. It’s air-conditioned and warm in winter, too.
This is the story of the traditional houses of the indigenous ethnic tribe of the Lepcha or the “Lee Waar Lee”, as it is known in Lepcha.
Worried over the fast rate of deterioration of such brilliantly-designed constructions, the Indigeneous Lepcha Tribal Association has now decided to renovate the existing houses.
According to a survey by the Lepchas, it was learnt that there are 34 such huge traditional houses in the sub-division of Kalimpong.
“Many of them are even 100-years-old and are like a living museum,” the general secretary of the association, Mr Lyangsong Tamsang, said.
The importance of such houses in the Lepcha society — the oldest tribe of the Hills — is immense. “During thatching of the roof, both men and women sing Apryaa Vom, a traditional Lepcha song, as an act of maintaining the ancient Lepcha culture and tradition,” Mr Tamsang said.
However, of late, many such houses are in the process of decay, ruin and face demolition. “The root cause of decay, rotting and wearing is due to acute shortage and unavailability of thatch grasses in the Hills. Owing to poverty Lepchas living in remote areas cannot afford to buy and provide thatch grasses for their houses,” he said.
Members of the association lamented that in spite of their approach to the state and the Centre nothing has been done to preserve and save these unique houses. “They are simply not interested,” a senior member of ILTA said.
“It feels nice to learn about traditional houses having been repaired, renovated and restored at Loley, Lower Bong, Lyang Sa, Dabling. Very recently the association in collaboration with Mr Subir Lepcha, president of Konkibong Lepcha village association, repaired a neglected house at See Maa, Konkibong,” Mr Tamsang said.
Senior members of the association have asked for help to preserve, conserve, save and protect these unique Lepcha traditional houses for posterity.
“There are 25 traditional houses that need to be renovated,” Mr Tamsang said, adding “help us to show and demonstrate to the world that India has such unique houses, buildings which can save human lives during earthquakes.”

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