In 2001, 65 million people in India were living in slums without decent living conditions or any access to water and food on a daily basis. According to Berkeley research, more ore than 80 percent of the urban population in India cannot afford a concrete slab to be used as a roof.

For those who can afford a roof in slums, most of the time they are made of cement or metal sheets, which has a very bad effect on health and leads to poor quality of life. Witnessing such a lack of basic need, Hasit Ganatra, engineer and founder of ReMaterials, conceptualized a new type of roof named ModRoof to improve lives in slums.

According to ReMaterials, ModRoof is a “modular roofing system” that can improve shelters in slums and village homes in developing areas. Eco-friendly, easily removable and simple to install, it is also designed to be strong, waterproof and fire-resistant.

In addition, ModRoof is available for a low cost. Payable through microfinance companies, a very popular system in developing countries, the program solves the main obstacle to better facilities in worldwide slums: the price.

ReMaterials is currently considering embedding solar cells in ModRoof, which would allow houses to have power LED lights and outlets to charge phones. Employing solar power with ModRoof would be a huge step forward, as providing electricity to these shelters could assist in lifting the residents out of poverty.

“Worldwide experts told us to give up; they said we’d never do it,” said Ganatra in an interview with BBC. “But when you see this sort of problem [in the slums] you have to do something about it.”

Thus, the stark blue rooftop from ReMaterials is set to change lives. With continued persistence from Ganatra and his team, ModRoof will allow families living in slums all around the world to sleep in a safer, warmer environment.

– Léa Gorius

Photo: Flickr

Pollinate EnergyIndia is a country that is home to 1.3 billion people and counting. Despite rapid innovation and expansion in the country, a significant portion of the population lives in slums.

In fact, as of 2014, 24 percent of the urban population of India resided in slum housing. Slum housing is any housing that may lack structural integrity or space, access to clean water or sanitation or where residents do not have the security of tenure.

With such a large population living in slums, there is a serious need for affordable energy. Yet electricity from the power sector in India is very unreliable and power outages of 20 hours or more occur often. As a result, many people who reside in India’s slums rely on kerosene as fuel. While kerosene is an effective substitute for an unreliable power sector, it is not cost-efficient and can cause household and environmental air pollution.

To improve access to sustainable energy in India’s slums, one organization called Pollinate Energy has implemented a unique business strategy. In what Pollinate Energy calls “social business,” a salesman or “pollinator” builds connections with locals in Indian slums.

The pollinator may teach the locals about the benefits of using renewable energy and the potential negative effects of using kerosene for light or cooking. If the community members want to purchase sustainable energy products from the pollinator they can buy them at an affordable price.

Plus, if the customers are satisfied with the products, they may act as “worker bees” that refer other community members to the pollinator in return for products or commission.

This business model encourages the adoption of reliable, sustainable energy products in India’s slums and allows consumers to become entrepreneurs in their own communities.

According to their annual report, in 2014-15 Pollinate Energy sold over 9,000 products to nearly 43,000 individuals in India. These products helped save 43.7 million Rupees and eliminated 2,000 tons of potential CO2 emissions for consumers who would have bought and used kerosene for light and cooking.

For at-risk individuals like those who live in slums, any money that can be saved could be used for other essential goods like food, water or medicine. Though systematic change is necessary to fully help those who reside in slums around the world, Pollinate Energy is making a positive difference by providing clean energy products and job opportunities to those in need.

Weston Northrop
Photo: Flickr