In the parlance of a Pakistani cynic, words like relief, relocation, rehabilitation and model villages may have negative connotations because of what some people perceive as foreign-funded “NGO-isation” of the development sector.
However, the establishment of a completely self-contained model village by one of Pakistan’s largest corporations in Kot Addu, near Muzaffargarh, is a testament to the wonders that corporate social responsibility (CSR) can do for flood-affected families.
Spread over 20 acres of land, the Ittehad Model Village has 166 houses of seven marlas each. Engro Corp contributed Rs120 million to rehabilitate the victims of the 2010 floods. The rest of the funding came from Engro’s different partners and suppliers. The Punjab government provided land for the model village free of cost.
“These 166 families had been living together in one village before the 2010 floods. The Punjab government wanted to allot houses after a draw. But we resisted, saying that a community can’t be built by strangers,” said Tahir Jawaid, senior vice president of Engro Corp, while talking to The Express Tribune. “People are sensitive as to who lives in their neighbourhood. That’s the reason other model villages set up after a draw for the allotment of houses have yet to kick off.”
Not only this, all villagers were required to move onto the site in a temporary shelter during the construction phase so that they could physically take part in the process. “The primary aim was to engage them at a personal level so they can develop an emotional attachment with their new houses,” he said.
Being Engro Corp’s single largest social investment ever, its different subsidiaries have provided the model village project with their expertise. For example, Engro Polymer and Chemicals helped lay a highly efficient sewerage system, which has more longevity and less friction. In addition, the village also has the grey water harvesting facility whereby the sewage water is treated upon and made fit for irrigation purposes.
Another subsidiary of the company, Engro Powergen, along with its Chinese partner company, played a key role in design, selection, institution and commissioning of solar panels that provide the village with a long-term, sustainable electricity solution.
Jawaid said building a house with two bedrooms, one bathroom and a verandah cost Rs340,000. If the cost of developing the related infrastructure is also taken into account, the per-house cost increases to a little over Rs1 million, he added.
“I was there in February. The solar panels are working absolutely fine. No one has stolen them. People take care of such things because it’s their livelihood that is at stake,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 8th, 2012.