Emergency Shelter for Kashmir Flood Victims

You can make homemade bales with a hand press if bales aren’t available.
You can make homemade bales with a hand press if bales aren’t available.

A recent flood in Kashmir has displaced millions. Aid workers have been blocked from the area, but hopefully this information on emergency straw bale shelters will be helpful.

From what I’ve been told, Kashmiri’s only want temporary shelters to get through the winter and then they will rebuild their traditional houses, so make shelters that are quick, low cost and easy. Kashmir is cold in the winter so consider strawbale shelters that provide 18” of insulation. Bales are very easy to build with. They’re like giant superinsulating building blocks. This is why people have been building with straw bales in freezing climates such as Siberia, Canada and Alaska (and hot climates also).

Can you get straw bales or make bales in Kashmir? If you can’t find bales you can make your own. There are photos on the Internet of simple hand presses that make homemade bales out of grass, straw, etc. PAKSBAB makes their bales with a car jack.

Watch this video about strawbale shelters to see how easy it is to build this way: https://naturalbuildingblog.com/straw-bale-shelter-video/

You can stack bales on wooden shipping palets as shown in the video. Or if you want to raise the bales higher (they’re in a flood zone) you could make earthbags and stack bales on top. Use enough courses of bags so snow doesn’t touch the bales. Ex: 2′ of snow = make 2-1/2′ high walls of earthbags or gravel bags. I’ve been told there are concrete slabs that would make nice level surfaces to build on.

Tie downs: Use baling twine, strong cord or 1/4″ poly rope to tie down the bale walls. You can also use nylon or poly strapping that holds loads on shipping pallets. Go under the earthbags or pallets and up and over the wood 2×4 top plate. That way the whole wall is strapped together. The 2×4 along the top acts as a bond beam to attach the roof.

Roof: Matts Myrhman puts a tarp on top of the rafters, fills the top with a big pile of loose straw (which accumulates on every building site — just rake it up) and then covers the pile with another tarp. Tie it all down, add a recycled door, etc. Use 2′ wide roof overhangs and cover the bales with earth plaster to protect from rain and snow.

It’s all super fast and simple. No hard work at all except making the bales takes time. A small shelter can be assembled in around 30 minutes to 1 hour.
There are probably hundreds of free websites that explain strawbale building basics. If you want to buy a book for simple strawbale houses or shelters then consider buying Matts Myrhman’s Build it With Bales.

Image: Glassford.com

4 thoughts on “Emergency Shelter for Kashmir Flood Victims”

  1. I don’t know how to make a baler. We’re suffering financially in the USA, but no comparison to how 3rd world countries are suffering. I really feel for those people. If you sold plans for a straw bale mold and sold them it would help us and them. The money you make (over upkeep costs) could go toward the cause. You could sell the plans pretty high and we would still benefit from having the plans at the same time the 3rd world countries could benefit.

    • Simple things like this are typically improvised (do-it-yourself, homemade, salvaged materials). Very few if any people would buy the plans. It’s basically just a box and a car jack. I suggest talking to someone with handyman skills to make one if need be. Also, try emailing PAKSBAB and see if they have any more information.Also, there might be plans in The Last Straw Journal.

      In the US you can most likely buy bales already made by a baling machine. They can be recompressed by hand if they seem too loose. This could be done with a plywood box and someone standing on top of scrap wood. The bale will compress and then you can tighten the twine or add new twine.

      Summary: earthbag building and strawbale building are very simple. Start working with a few earthbags or a few bales and build a small corner to experment. No need to buy any special tools really. Ex: a baling need can be made in a bench vice in about 5 minutes out of scrap metal even though you could buy one for $50 or so. Ex: no need to buy books for simple structures. You can find everything on the Internet for free or at a good library.


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