Medhipamua in the Dhemaji district is a typical Mising village along the Brahmaputra river. To adapt and reduce disaster risk, the community uses architectural design to cope with floods called chang ghars perched above the ground on bamboo stilts.
The houses are built at an eight-foot height, while others are 12-13 feet high in the interiors. The community keeps the bamboo poles stacked before the monsoons arrive.
Many families still prefer moving a few kilometers away from their houses on country boats to a more secure raised platform like the village community space where the magnitude of the water is also usually less.
The houses are made with locally available materials such as bamboo, wood, and cane. The communities have a sense of reading the behavior of the river, which makes them decide at what height they will make the base floor.
The interiors of the houses have more specialties. Inside, there is a small fireplace and a stove; above that, there are usually three shelves at different levels, and depending on the height of the shelves from the fireplace, they keep or store various kinds of materials.
For example, on their first shelf, it may have apong–their traditional alcoholic beverage. The second shelf may have food items and vegetables, and the top shelf may have grains and stuff that can be preserved for the upcoming year. The chang ghars also have a balcony-like extension outside the house.
Many families, local panchayat houses, and community spaces use concrete instead of bamboo or wood to construct the pillars. It is because, in the past years, floods have been catastrophic. While the houses won’t get inundated because they are built at a height, the force of the water can damage the bamboo pillars. Therefore, the pillars are made of concrete using cement, iron rods, etc. It is also another improvisation on the part of the community.
The chang ghars are disaster-resilient and do not get submerged during severe flood situations, and they can be dismantled during soil erosion or riverbank erosion crises. This concept is now replicated and scaled up by other communities and families living in severe flood-prone areas along the river basin.