Three Community Development Centres and Cyclone Shelters (hereafter called Cyclone Shelters) were commissioned by PRISM (Projects in Agriculture, Rural Industry, Science and Medicine - an NGO with a Bangladesh office). The three structures are located in the upazilas/thanas (sub-districts) of Chakaria, Maheshkhali and Kutubdia respectively, within the Cox's Bazar district of Bangladesh. The district is almost completely flat and only a few feet above sea level. The entire western coast and the islands are open to the Bay of Bengal and are vulnerable to cyclones and tidal waves. The population, which is concentrated mainly in villages, comprises farmers, farm workers, fishermen and salt-extraction labourers. They live in homesteads, which tend to be blown or washed away during storms. The shelters, therefore, serve as sanctuaries for the local communities and their livestock when cyclones and tidal waves occur. At other times the Cyclone Shelters are used as PRISM's area office, as the local dispensary, and as a place where groups involved in various development programme activities (such as income generation and informal education) can hold meetings. The shaded space on the ground floor is generally used for spontaneous gatherings and other combined endeavours. The local communities view these majestic structures in their villages with a sense of pride.
The Cyclone Shelters were planned to accommodate about 1,500 people and numbers of valuable livestock during cyclones occurring within a 1.5 kilometre radius. For regular activities each centre was planned to serve as a health clinic with a medicine dispensing area; as a seed/grain store; as a focus for education, training and community information; and as a communication centre and office for PRISM. The requirements included water and sanitation facilities within the main structure. Both the upper floors have toilets. In evolving the design brief special consideration was given to the use of the shelter in normal times; to disaster preparedness; to capacity; to livestock protection; and to maintenance and construction details.
A three-storied structure with a hollow ground floor, each Cyclone Shelter is built upon a platform 60 centimetres above the site level and reaches a height of 12 metres including the platform and the parapet. The first floor, accessible by a ramp, is at a height of 4.6 metres to safeguard livestock during a cyclone. A staircase from the first floor goes right up to the roof via the second floor. Altogether the area comes to around 725 square metres, including the roof. The standard adopted has been to provide 0.46 square metres per person to allow them to sit comfortably on the floor during storms. It is assumed, however, that people will continue to take shelter there even when it is filled to capacity, which may reduce the space per person to 0.14 square metres.
Source: Aga Khan Trust for Culture
Chakaria, Maheshkhali and Kutubdia subdistricts of Cox's Bazaar District, Various locations