Low-cost, low-tech cooling offers hope for Indian slums

(Eco Business, 13 Feb 2023) An experimental project in Pune, Bengaluru and Mumbai is bringing slum residents respite from extreme heat, and looks set for scaling.

When a group of engineers offered Rayissa Sayyad a simple mechanism to cool her 150 sq ft home that had a tin roof, she was more than a little incredulous.

The tiny dwelling in the Shindevasti slum in the western Indian city of Pune got stifling hot by midday on summer days, forcing the family outdoors for most of the afternoon and evening. Could a chainwheel-pulley contraption to move a tinfoil rooftop sheet make a difference, she wondered.

“But our house did get considerably cooler, we could feel the difference distinctly,” said the 28-year-old, the second generation to live in the Shindevasti slum dwelling. 

The rooftop installation in Sayyad’s home was part of a pilot project, covering 15 slum homes each in Pune and Bengaluru first, then Delhi and Mumbai, to develop rooftop retrofits for low-cost, sustainable cooling. 

Between October 2020 and April 2022, cBalance Solutions, the Mumbai-based sustainability consultancy behind this “informal housing thermal comfort” project, conducted multiple rounds of discussions and trials with local communities to evolve a tested suite of workable solutions that reduce temperatures inside slum homes. 

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Eco Business, 13 Feb 2023: Low-cost, low-tech cooling offers hope for Indian slums