Refugee From Sahrawi Builds Homes Out Of Recycled Plastic Bottles

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A Sahrawi refugee builds homes out of recycled plastic bottles. Named Tateh Lehbib Barika took a course under UNHCR to make this sustainable houses in Sahara

Written By Tanima Ray | Mumbai | Updated On:

In the vast deserts of Sahara, a man named Tateh Lehbib Barika is building houses out of plastic bottles for Sahrawi refugees. The Sahrawi refugee camps of Algeria are home to thousands of refugees displaced by the conflict in Western Sahara. Tateh too was born in one of these camps, according to World Habitat Organisation. His work came to light after United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees tweeted a video sharing his incredible story.
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Tateh's journey in making the house of bottles

"Me and my family had to endure high temperatures, rain, and sandstorms that would sometimes take the roof off," saif Tateh in his Sahrawi language which was translated by the UNHCR in their video.

Most of the houses in Sahara are made of sun-dried bricks and roofs of zinc. This further enhances the interior temperature. Tateh too was born in such a house, he shared in the video. The extreme weather conditions and sand storms in Sahara make the life of the refugees quite difficult. Reportedly, being housed in camps, people did not get the benefit of living in secured houses. Tateh, who was worried about his family decided to take steps to make their lives comfortable.

On 2013, Tateh was chosen for the scholarship from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to study renewable energy. After completing his course, she set out to build a house for his family. In the video, he explained that his training gave him the knowledge of choosing the right materials and opt for a sustainable way to build those structures. In order to make the house, Tateh used recycled plastic bottles filled with sand and straw as building blocks instead of bricks. These bottles block rain, sand and also the outer white coating serves a s heat reflector and insulator. He joined the bottles with cement and limestone to make the houses stronger and comfortable. Locals now have nicknamed Tateh as 'Crazy with bottles'.

"When I came back to the camps, I decided to build a place for my grandmother to live that was more comfortable and more worthy of her," Tateh said.

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UNHCR's post on Tateh goes viral

The United Nations Refugee Agency has shared both a tweet and a Facebook video sharing Tateh's story. One can see the plastic bottle houses built by him in the video. It was first shared in Friday and since then the Facebook video has collected more than 548K views and dozens of comments. A Facebook user wrote: "Great innovation, converting waste to building materials of used plastics". Similarly, another wrote: "What a great way to use up plastic," and a third added: "Thanks for protecting the environment".

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By 2030, 40% Indian will not have access to drinking water