Expert Reports on Planning & Development
“To me, Auroville implies ‘City of Dawn’. It is the city which is on the emergence, when the sun rises up, and you begin to see this new city: unimaginable, fantastic, the kind of world that is there.
When we did the regional plan in the surrounding areas and I saw those water bodies, I wondered, ‘what is happening to this place?’ At that time there were discussions on population, discussions on growth of Auroville itself. A lot of things were being discussed in the committees, and I was there in the committee.
The thing that I found was that Roger’s plan of the Galaxy… to me it suggests a whole lot of visions. Visions of connectivity, potentials, diversities, huge amount of choices – including the potentials of getting a place for everybody. It was really the city of the universe. And why it is not happening, why it is not moving, I have no idea at all.
So the question is: should we talk of it as a city, or should we talk about ‘galaxy’? There’s a big difference between the words ‘city’ and ‘galaxy’. I think we are talking about very small, micro level – and we are talking about Mother. It’s a big paradox, a huge difference between the two statements.
So when you look at the Galaxy – and I remember, often when I saw the model, and when I had been thinking there, and when there was a discussion going on – first thing is, ‘what is galaxy?’ Galaxy is the magnet of the universe in which things move, and they move in a dynamic balance. That is what I know. And I’m just guessing. And everything can be absorbed, and everything can manifest, and everything adds its own value and ability to regenerate, revitalize. And I think that is ‘galaxy’. Galaxy is not a small house with a compound wall. It’s a fluid thing, it has interconnections. It has many levels, it goes up and down, etc.
When the model was made, the model was not really representing the kind of galaxy that I had seen in Roger’s plan. And I think the first thing we should know is: are we really talking about a building? Or are we talking about celebration of life? That’s what I think Mother was talking about. How do you charge the souls to manifest their subtle existence and the purpose of their existence. Do we talk about this at all? Or are we talking about ‘my kitchen is not working,’ or ‘the costs are like this,’ or ‘I have no road,’ or ‘I have no water supply’… I think the issue is first, we should remove these words of architecture and building. We should talk about how do we celebrate life on this planet, and make a model.
So when you talk about celebration, you are talking about total sustainability relationships, potentials, expanding our ideas, expanding our horizons. And I think this is not happening. So we start talking about little things… we go to the canteen and we have our little plate, and we talk and this is our universe – is this really what we are talking? What Mother must be thinking!
And I think that plan shows you the micro, macro, all the levels of housing etc., can be built there. And Roger was upset because I was not working, I did not reply to him. And when I saw the Auromodele houses which he had done in the beginning… you could see how this person who comes from Paris to be here, who had a large practice, gives away everything and does these little things here… and he talks about climate, he talks about fluidity, he talks about visions, and he talks about lightness. And I think those are the things which are pioneering works.
Earlier photographs which I had seen, from Piero and others, thatched buildings and thatched houses, when the land was absolutely dry, barren land – there was an aspiration. There was a vision. And there was an idealism. And it was not talked about, ‘what is the population’. We always look at it as if it is a part of the universe. We are global. We are not local, we are not regional. We are not small people. I think this is where the first difference to me is.
And that should be removed. And we should talk about saying, ‘how do we understand what galaxies are’. We don’t even know (I don’t know at all), but when I imagine, when I think about it, there is a dynamic balance, and that balance generates energies, and those energies help the whole cosmic order of the universe. In this, health and hygiene things come – but more than that, the inner sensitivities which Mother is talking about, come out.
And I think we have to talk about not ourselves as beings – we have to talk about this galaxy which continues, and it will go on and on and on, and it will become a model. A model of life, a model of living.
What is happening is, given as architects we look at architecture, at building – this is not building, it is life. How do you celebrate life, how do you give life, how do you generate life, and how do you enrich life. And I think this is something which one has to talk about.”
Extracts from Auroville city conversations, May 2020 – Video 1
Extracts from Auroville city conversations, May 2020 – Video 2
Extracts from Auroville city conversations, May 2020 – Video 3
Extracts from Auroville city conversations, May 2020 – Video 4
Auroville Master Plan – Regulations for Planning and Implementing Roads. Suhasini, Aurovilian, Architect
- T. has been stating in several meetings and again at the Residents Assembly Meeting (RAM) dt. 20.12.21 that “as the team that prepared the Auroville Universal Township – Master Plan (perspective 2025) knew how incapable Auroville residents are, so they very cleverly embedded the first 5-year development plan”. And his argument is therefore there is no need to wait for a Detail Development Plan (DDP) to start the works of implementing the crown and other roads. Ref: to AvUT – MP – PP 2025 – Section 2.10 and table – 22
- Vidhya (member TDC) has claimed in the same RAM that for roads already indicated in a MP one does not need a DDP as they can be implemented without notice for the regulations allow this. A DDP is needed only for local streets, minor paths and such.
Are these statements valid as per the regulations of Urban Planning of the Indian Government, center and state?
- The Auroville Universal Township – Master Plan (perspective: 2025) (AvUT-MP-P2025) was prepared using the planning guidelines ‘Urban Development Plans Formulation and Implementation’ (UDPFI) framed in 1996 by the Institute of Town Planners, India. https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b- d&q=udpfi+guidelines+1996+pdf. Since then, this has been amended in 2014, new ‘Urban and Regional Development Plans Formulation and Implementation’ (URDFI) guidelines were published in 2015.
The AvUT-MP-P2025 has to be aligned with the amended guidelines prepared with the intention to bring uniform regulations in the country with a recommended planning system.
- The amended regulations URDPFI – 2014 – http://tcpo.gov.in/urban- and-regional-development-plans-formulation-and-implementation- urdpfi-guidelines – have recommended a planning framework – refer to section 1.4. Recommended Planning System -Introduction – table 1.3 – planning system framework.
Have ATDC and AVF followed this framework in their planning system? No, they have not.
- The URDPFI – 2014 – section 1.5.1. Perspective Plan lays out the scope, function and framework of what constitutes a perspective plan. By this regulation, the claim by ATDC / AVF that the AvUT-MP-P2025 is an omnibus that combines Master plan and Perspective plan and Development plan, is not valid. The URDPFI – 2014 – section 1.5.3. Development Plan defines the legal framework supported by an implementation strategy and evaluation criteria. Further the section 2.2.3. Contents of Development Plan clearly defines the methodology of preparing the development plan.
So, does the AvUT-MP-P2025 – section 2.10 – PHASING AND RESOURCE MOBILISATION, Table 22- Development plan Five-Year Development Plan (2001-2006) qualify as a DDP?
No, the table 22 is only a list of projects that should be considered in the development program that will be prepared as part of the Development Plan. If table 22 is legally binding then so is table 23: Funding Sources for the Development Plan 2001-2006. This table states that the following are obligated to fork up these amounts: Av commercial units: 50 crores, consultancy from Av research (accused of wanting to make Auroville into an ecovillage): 10 crores, Grant project GOI: 65 crores, international funding: 100 crores, private donations: 50 crores, and finally contributions from Av residents (who are vilified as using environment to be “zamindars”): 75 crores.
- Reference to Detail Development Plan in Tamil Nadu – Town_Country_Planning_Act_1971- CHAPTER – III. PLANNING AREAS, PLANNING AUTHORITIES AND PLANS Section 20 –states roads; planning, alignment, functions and implementation as part of the content of the Detail Development Plan.
Why does the ATDC think making unsubstantiated claims will help them to develop this city?
Why are the residents asking for a DDP before implementation of any of the schematic road maps in the AvUT-MP-P2025 document? Why do they refute the claim of ATDC and Toine?
It is not because the residents of Auroville are against development of the township as claimed by Toine and some members of ATDC and WC. On the contrary, everyone supports the development of Auroville, development that is planned, integrating the watersheds, conservation of ecosystem services, land use (present and proposed) and resource efficiency.
By regulations we need to take the above-mentioned factors into account in planning of roads, the studies on these are already done by Av experts and collaborative expertise to implement is also there.
So, why is the TDC and some members of the WC, along with a faction supported by the authorities constantly putting out the propaganda that the present 3300 residents do not want the township to develop? That the experts want diminish the project to an ecovillage?
Who or what is using the argument that a “road as a perfect circle” to release the soul of Matrimandir creating a conflict, pushing to the point of violence? Who is benefitting from this division and mistrust, that is not going to be easy to overcome?
How will the marginalization of the present residents make this project attractive for the 15,000 waiting to join as soon as the crown is done? Will these 15,000 be marginalized for more development that has to happen for when the balance 32,000 have to join Auroville?
Making and Implementing the Master Plan
Cristo, Aurovilian, Transportation Engineer
Auroville Today no.389, December 2021
Cristo was the Coordinator of the Auroville Universal Township Integrated Master Plan 1999, the first Auroville Master Plan, which was approved by the community. Here he talks about its background and gives his views on the changes made in the second Auroville Master Plan, the Auroville Universal Township Master Plan Perspective 2001-2025, which was officialised by its publication in the Gazette of India in 2010, and talks about the present day developments.
AVToday: What is your background and why did you get involved in drafting a Master Plan for Auroville?
Cristo: Before joining Auroville in 1974, I was working as a trainee transportation engineer in Germany, learning how to design roads and streets. When I joined Auroville, I started a construction service together with Pierre Elouard and others, building houses, schools and workshops. By the end of 1989, I left Auroville to earn money to build a house for myself. I found employment in French Guiana, an overseas department of France on the northeast coast of South America. I was in charge of developing the Sinnamary township near Guiana’s Space Centre, better known as Europe’s Spaceport. This project included not only the construction of all the houses, but also building the roads and infrastructure. It was high-speed work. We managed to get people moving into their new houses within a period of two years. During this time construction also started on a bypass around the launching pad, cutting through dense jungle. We had to ensure that, for security reasons, there would be no development along this road. But of course, it was next to impossible to prevent illegal settlers building along the new highway. My memory of this problem resurfaced when we started working on the Auroville Master Plan many years later.
After I returned to Auroville in 1992 I built my house and was busy with working in the Green Group. Then, in 1994, the first private development happened on privately-owned land in the Green Belt (Sarathas, opposite Courage community). I was extremely distressed and discussed the matter with the then Land Use Coordination Group and with Luigi. The idea came up to start making a Master Plan, as a means to protect the Auroville project. I was tasked with the job of coordinating a team of 15 people who, from 1995 to 1999, prepared the ‘Auroville Universal Township Integrated Master Plan’. This document was approved by the community with an overwhelming majority in July 1999.
After you completed your task what happened?
In August of 1999, the Governing Board, then chaired by Dr Kireet Joshi, though expressing appreciation for the work, felt that eminent town planning authorities at the state and national level needed to be consulted before formally approving the plan and presenting it to the Government of India. Sri Kireet introduced us to the Central Government’s Town and Country Planning Organization (TCPO) in New Delhi. Mr Meshram and Mr Chotani, its Chief Town Planners, agreed to help, as did Mr Dattatri, the former Chief Town Planner of the Chennai Metropolitan authority. Mr Meshram and his officers would stay in Auroville for short periods, while Mr Dattatri came to Auroville a few days each week. They told us to base our work on the ‘Urban Development Plans Formulation and Implementation’ guidelines (UDPFI) of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs of the Government of India, which we did. After four months of further consultation outside and inside Auroville, the ‘Auroville Universal Township Master Plan’, a refinement of the previous document, was finalised. This is a 25-year Perspective or Directional Plan, which contains the broad concepts and philosophies. It prescribes that 5-year development plans need to be made – which can be made once the ground realities are clear – which are then followed by annual plans that are made for implementation.
This plan, the result of a partnership work between the Auroville Foundation and the TCPO, went to New Delhi. It was officialised by the Human Resource Development Minister Shri Murli Manohar Joshi and the Minister of Urban Development and Poverty Alleviation, Shri Jagmohan. The document was subsequently approved by the Governing Board of the Auroville Foundation. For unknown reasons, it was only published in the Gazette of India in 2010.
Were you involved during this entire period?
No, not fully. Once the first Master Plan was achieved I returned to green work but remained active as a Consulting Engineer to the Auroville Development Council, the predecessor of Auroville’s town planning department L’Avenir d’Auroville, now known as the Town Development Council, whenever the need arose. In 2000, I was sent to Europe to present the 1999 Master Plan to the Auroville International Centre in Paris, followed by a presentation at an Auroville International gathering in Germany. But when I came back, I learned that a group of Aurovilians had meanwhile continued the work on the second and now approved Master Plan, which has some significant changes from the 1999 document.
What are these changes?
Most prominent is the road network. The 1999 document mentioned a Crown Road, a circular road to be built at a certain distance around the city centre; an Outer Ring Road in between the city and the greenbelt; and 12 radials roads connecting the Crown Road to the Outer Ring Road. This road design was based on The Mother’s symbol, with the difference that the radials were slightly curved to follow the flowing movement of the galaxy. But many radial roads, and a large part of the Outer Ring Road, were indicated by dotted lines, as we were not sure they should manifest, or might only be built in some areas.
We had considered including some access roads, but we deliberately did not mention them as we did not want any real estate developer purchasing and developing the lands along those future access roads. For that reason, the document only mentions access by the existing roads. This decision was based on my memory of the problem I had faced in Guiana.
The second Master Plan largely followed the road network of the first Plan. But it added four access roads, a decision which dismayed me as I felt it would invite project developers to purchase the lands along these roads and develop them. The novelty of this amended Plan was that the four access roads would terminate at four so-called ‘nodal points’ on the Outer Ring Road, which would serve as transit stations where people could shift to environment-friendly transport to go anywhere within the city. But, like the first Master Plan, the road network within the city, including the outer ring road, was not ‘fixed’; and it was clear that any future bypass roads would have to be located outside the Auroville area.
Was there any reference in either master plan to the surrounding villages?
The Perspective Plan does mention the adjoining villages and how they can be integrated within Auroville’s philosophy and development. There were plans to translate the salient features of the Perspective Plan into Tamil, and then meet with village leaders and women’s groups to refine the plans and incorporate their requirements, so that there would be a participatory planning.
What was the role of Roger Anger, who The Mother had appointed as Chief Architect of Auroville in the making of the first and second Master Plan?
Roger was a member of the Governing Board which approved the second Master Plan. But during all the years I served, be it when making the first Master Plan or later as a member of L’Avenir d’Auroville, I do not remember much of his involvement. He was not for any length of time present in Auroville and the contacts with him were mainly through the people who were close to him. He had no direct role nor interfered in the work we were doing. I had only once a personal contact with him, when we discussed the role and the location of some of the radial roads. In these discussions he showed a lot of flexibility. His role, he said, was to set the broad plan of the Galaxy, and the details had to be worked out by others. He was a great man who was, I believe, often greatly misunderstood and sometimes even wrongfully vilified.
What has been the progress since the amended Master Plan was approved by the Governing Board?
Very little. We simply lacked the people with the required professional skills. In 2001, Mr. Dattatri already observed that Auroville was poorly equipped to make Development Plans; and that hasn’t changed. Mr. Dattatri spoke about the need for a professional team consisting of a senior planner, service staff, and quite a few resource people to do surveys and obtain data relating to traffic, sustainable development, economics and so on. But this never manifested. All successive planning groups consisted mainly of Aurovilians, many of them trained architects, full of goodwill, but without planning qualifications. The group chaired by Governing Board member Shri B.V. Doshi was also not able to make much progress.
A few draft development plans were made, but always by non-Aurovilians. Louis Féduchi, a professor from Spain, together with a Polish visitor Kaja Delezuch, made a draft Development Plan for sectors one and two of the Residential Zone, [see AVToday # 308, March 2015, eds.]; David and Achva Stein, landscape architects and town planners from the U.S.A., made a draft Development Plan for the Greenbelt [see AVToday 287, September 2012, eds.]. Andréa Cammarata, an Italian town planner, came to Auroville many times to study the International Zone, and is willing to make a Development plan for this Zone [see AVToday # 356, March 2019, eds.] I loved working with these planners as they are highly qualified. Then there was an Electrical Master Plan made by an engineering company from Calcutta; and Anupama has done a beautiful work on the city centre. But with the exception of the Electrical Master Plan, none of these plans were formally approved and Andréa has not been given permission to start the work. Though his plan was never approved, Féduchi’s work now serves as a basis for developing those sectors of the Residential Zone [see AVToday #369-370, April-May 2020, eds.]
Was there any planning progress with the villages?
That has always been my special interest. For many years we have been working on shared development plans, which led to the creation of Regional Development and Planning Councils with the local Panchayats. [see AVToday # 347-348, June-July 2018, eds.] But the Councils only functioned for about three years as the previous Town Development Council team did not continue the work. This is unwise. It is in Auroville’s interest to work with the six villages around Auroville and create collective infrastructure and road plans.
Let’s go to the present. What was your response when you learned about the plans to now start building the entire Crown Road to a total width of 16.7 metres, which includes two shoulders of 5 metres each, for use by pedestrians, cyclists and public transport?
I became a member of the L’Avenir d’Auroville team in 2009, and from December 2012 to 2018, I was a member of the first Town Development Council. In both teams I was in charge of infrastructure development. The parameters for the study of the section of the Crown Road from the Solar Kitchen to the Mahalakshmi Home were proposed by me and the study and calculations were done in collaboration with Dirk Nagelschmidt of Aqua Engineering. So I know about road widths and infrastructure corridors. But the present plans for the Crown Road have major flaws. I am working on a report to elaborate these mistakes. The simple fact of making a road this wide, of course, is an indication that it may become just an ordinary road.
So you are against the Crown Road?
No. The Crown Road can and should be done. But I see the Crown as an opportunity to create unity if people come together to discuss and agree how best it can be built; but not when it is unilaterally imposed. We need a group of everyone concerned. The top-down approach does not work.
And yes, I have reservations. The first and main one is that the only mobility plan approved by Roger Anger in 2005 has never been reviewed and updated. This plan is clearly made for a city where 50,000 residents are living. No phasing has been incorporated, based on population increase, no survey of existing terrain conditions, etc. The present Town Development Council (TDC) is not working in harmony with the approved Master Plan, as it has not produced any Development Plan, including an actualized mobility plan, to justify the building of this road. It is unbelievable that this is being ignored, and that present-day realities are not being addressed.
These realities are of paramount importance. Today there are about 400 cars in Auroville, up from 76 some 20 years ago, a figure that will increase in the coming years. Many of these cars are owned by elderly Aurovilians, who have no other way to go around. With Auroville having two buses and one minivan, there is no public transport to speak of – and we have no funds to develop it. Increasingly, motorbikes and cars from outside ply the Auroville roads, such as from guests, from people who visit Auroville units, the 7,000 employees, the construction traffic bringing steel and bricks and cement, the courier services and last but not least the through-traffic generated by residents of the surrounding villages using Auroville roads as short cuts. And if in the next few years 4,000 new people join Auroville, as is being promoted by some people, they will bring their own cars and motorbikes and create additional mobility issues.
But there is no discussion on what traffic Auroville is willing to accept. Do we want cars like everywhere else? If so, we need to plan for parking spaces along the roads and build large parking garages. These are the questions I was asking my colleagues at TDC and later L’avenir during the 14 years I worked in these organizations, but I never got any indication as to the direction our studies were to take. The choices we make today on mobility will define the way Auroville will develop in the next 25 to 50 years: towards the City the Earth Needs or just towards becoming another ordinary city for tourists and business.
What are your views about the Outer Ring Road?
I was shocked when I read the response of the TDC to a question of Auroville Today on how the TDC envisages the Outer Ring Road [issue # 387, October 2021, eds]
“For the very reason that the outer ring road passes through adjoining villages, it is important that it remains public and accessible to all. This road will receive traffic from the access roads that would connect the Pondicherry – Tindivanamn Highway and the East Coast Road. The main purpose of this road in the context of Auroville is (1) to connect the four zones on the peripheral side of the city and (2) to divert the non-Auroville bound traffic from entering the city.”
This, for me, is complete nonsense. In the same para there are two contradictory proposals. It goes against what The Mother said about traffic in Auroville. It goes against the Master Plan which says that the four main access roads would terminate at nodal points outside of the greenbelt from where people could shift to environment-friendly transport to go anywhere within the city (clearly meaning no private car ownership). It goes against the vision expressed in the Master Plan that any future bypass roads would have to be located outside the Auroville area. Also, the Outer Ring Road as planned by the TDC would bring all the endemic problems connected to highway development into Auroville, such as the air and noise pollution. And on lands not owned by Auroville, e.g. the lands in the Greenbelt, there will be strip commercial development with the accompanying issues of garbage dumping, excessive water extraction, ground water pollution, and social issues like alcoholism, violence and prostitution. And I am not even speaking about the fact that such a road would destroy large parts of established forest growth in the Greenbelt and the many Auroville communities that border it.
Does this mean that you consider the Outer Ring Road is a wrong concept?
Yes, in the way it is understood by the TDC today. There are safer alternatives to the imperfect circle that defines the Outer Ring Road. One of these is to segregate traffic. The southern part of the Outer Ring Road from Sharnga to Edaiyanchavadi should be built, but only used by Aurovilians and those who need to visit Auroville. It would have a single connection to the Kuilapalayam – Edaiyanchavadi tar road, which will continue to be the bypass road between the East Coast Road and the Pondicherry-Tindivanam highway. In this way a part of the Outer Ring Road would serve Auroville, without inviting all non-Auroville traffic. Another access point is needed for the Industrial Zone.
What are your reflections on the future?
It took many years of hard work to come to the Auroville Universal Township Master Plan Perspective 2001-2025. Now, as we are almost in 2022, I would advise the making of a Detailed Development Plan for the next five years that will serve as the basis for a new Perspective Master Plan. And I wouldn’t go for another 25-Years’ Plan but for a 10-Year Plan based on the realities of the year 2025. Let the community and Governing Board together decide the mobility, the food distribution, the zones and entertainment areas, all what we really need. Then make an assessment every two years of what worked and what didn’t, and adjust where necessary. And let Auroville hire professional town planners and appoint an Auroville Interface Team to be the liaison between these professional town planners and the community.
Are you frustrated by the slow pace of development and what’s happening today?
Not really. If anything, Mother India has taught me patience. The true development of Auroville is not measured in the number of buildings and roads that have come up, but in the increasing manifestation of human unity and the development of people’s consciousness. I think I see that happening, particularly in children.
Regarding today’s developments: much as I welcome and admire the drive to acquire all the lands within the Township Area of Auroville, which is absolutely necessary for the manifestation of Auroville, I do not agree with building a road network without a mobility plan and without a harmonious community involvement. I learned from Mr. Dattatri, who I loved dearly, that in Tamil Nadu the best approach towards any successful development is from bottom up, particularly when dealing with the administration and the village elders.
Regarding myself: I’ve spent 47 years in Auroville, and have gone though many very severe downs and some ups. A certain level of equanimity has developed and a ground for the development of a new consciousness has been laid. This, for me, is the only reason why I am still here, to further develop myself and serve the ideal of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo.
In conversation with Carel
Evaluation on Environmental and Social Impact of Present Development in Auroville – Gilles, Aurovilian, Consultant Water Resources Management
To Whom It May Concern
I would like to give my input in regard to the present, aggressive fast track development in Auroville from the background of my professional expertise in the domain of sustainable integrated water resources management. It is based on my experience, the observation of the ground, as well as scientific and practical knowledge of the area. This statement is deliberately based on logic and reason while I cannot escape that our present situation is impacted with emotions and badly hurt feelings, to which I do not wish to add.
Feel free to circulate this input.
The actual planning and recent development of Auroville is based on decisions and actions done without prior consultation of residents and without detailed planning, by initiating enforced development that shall lead to multiple roads, fast track development and related major increase of population. It is to be expected that this way of proceeding with the development will result in serious damage for the coherency of Auroville and for the practical life of the villages located in the direct vicinity of the planned urban area, the green belt and farther villages. This includes 6 local villages with related populations and activities.
The development, as pushed forward today, would offer a bypass from the NH 26 to the ECR, thus building up the traffic tremendously as well as invite uncontrolled business development with all related and well-known nuisances.
While a mobility study was conducted years ago, it is not considered in today’s move and there is no alternative study available today. Missing is also a usable overall topographic survey: The one conducted in 2002, or so, being unusable for various reasons and the ongoing one is incomplete today, with large segments of the city area and the quasi totality of the greenbelt still remaining to be done.
To my knowledge, the following preliminary but absolute necessary work has not been conducted:
- Soil tests for any road and structural developments have not been conducted.
- Studies of elevation variations have not been conducted. The variation of the elevation on ground is significant and has seemingly never been taken into consideration. If ground elevation would have been studied it would have indicated that the “perfect geometry” of circular roads in Auroville is simply a mind projection coming from a 2 D perspective: Seen from bird eye’s view, a circular road may look “perfectly round” while ground reality will show a different reality – a misleading understanding based on 2 D versus 3 D, or plan versus spacial perception…
- Detailed assessments have not been done for natural features like slope, canyons, drains, swales, ponds, recharge areas, estuaries and the large field of vegetation, trees and wildlife sanctuary. Their documentation and communication need then to be made available.
- Possibility of studies on alternative ways to address integration of infrastructure, eventually less invasive and less predominant in the urban context, is put aside.
- From the early stage of conception of the Galaxy and the Master Plan, the Green Belt and the City Area together formed the physical reality of Auroville. The Green Belt was an integrated part of Auroville. Following the present approach, the Green Belt with its activities and villages included, is entirely cut from the city area by a large road and related transit traffic. Detailed social and environmental assessments about the integration and interrelationship between the two core areas of Auroville and about how they are nurturing each other in their activities have not been conducted.
As Auroville is meant to be a place of never ending education one wonders why lessons are not learned:
Unending floods in Mumbai, Bangalore or Chennai this year are showcasing the impact of either wrong or insufficient planning of urban development. Also Auroville has not been spared from floods this year for the same reason. It is not understandable why these very critical points of studies of Auroville’s existing or planned reality can be ignored.
Any urban development of Auroville will naturally have an immediate and long-standing impact not only on Auroville but also on the adjacent villages. This impact can be reduced by proper urban planning. The following impact scenarios need detailed attention:
- Risk of immediate increased flood within the city area and in 3 of the adjacent villages (Edayanchavadi, Kottakarai, Allankupam) as one could witness now happening in the Residential Zone. This year’s flooding happened for similar reasons of unconsidered environmental concern in planning and development – with related erosion, eventual damages of lands and properties.
- As per layout of the roads (Crown, Outer Ring road and radials) Auroville loses precious ground water recharge areas, while Auroville and its surrounding already suffers from massive over- extraction, fast decline, pollution and sea water intrusion.
- Dissemination of pathogens through flooded septic facilities as seen in December in Prarthna.
- Social impact: If Auroville continues to develop in these lines of unconsidered planning, effects and damages within and without can not be prevented: –Serious damage to the fragile relationship with villagers, local administration and stakeholders. -Serious harm to the social fabric of Auroville with its 50+ nationality, its trust and faith in Auroville values.
Conclusive thoughts and legal aspects
Auroville made tremendous efforts to regenerate the environment in the area, a well-acclaimed effort, and to protect the local natural and human resources from further degradation and decline, finally promoting such recognized efforts and methods locally, state-wide, country-wide and worldwide. Contributions include: wildlife, afforestation with indigenous, at times very rare trees, soil preservation, water conservation, ground water recharge, sustainable agriculture, preservation of local culture, supporting villagers quality of life and well being.
Still calling for proactive action and progress, these efforts, benefitting the bioregion and its population, are recognized and supported nationally but also by worldwide government organizations through various programs and endorsements.
The present kind of actions and unconsidered planned development – brutal, violent, destructive – is not integrative and is putting Auroville’s ground reality, its gained experience and substantial benefits, in jeopardy – whatever the justification given. It is as well as a denial and weakening of the values and exemplary practices, knowledge, solutions and models Auroville has developed in response to harmful urban, industrial and rural activities, ultimately resulting in climate changes humanity and Nature are confronted with.
There is still a long way to go – true, before the City the Earth Needs is manifested – strong opposition of views still prevailing. And an even stronger impetus is necessary to prevent falling into inertia and decline. Nevertheless, enforcement is not inducing Human Unity and trust. What is already established, vivid, healthy and good today must be preserved and integrated to ensure a harmonious tomorrow.
I strongly recommend that in the present planning process the participation of residents is included, local adjustments to address specific issues are made and flexibility in the overall planning approach, in full accordance with Mother’s indications for Auroville, is shown. Experience has proven that such practice is addressing issues successfully and prevents conflicts.
With regard to the ongoing decisions one can observe that such practices are absent from these processes. Requests for a more inclusive approach, often based on practical experience, ground observation and solid scientific evidence, are systematically disregarded.
This is, in my understanding, in contradiction with the very aim of Auroville, ultimately impairing its manifestation.
Some tools and practices may help to sort out of this dead end.
Under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, India notified its first Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) norms in 1994, setting in place a legal framework for regulating activities that access, utilize, and affect natural resources. Every development project has been required to go through the EIA process for obtaining prior environmental clearance ever since. The social impacts of a project are the direct and indirect impacts that affect people and their communities during all stages of the project lifecycle. If they are not addressed, a project may create conflicts. To amicably solve such conflicts and to achieve a sustainable and inclusive development Social Impact Assessment (SIA) is an effective tool. The SIA with its components is an integral part of EIA studies.
Topics to be covered in different impact assessment types: Environment / Social / Health Source: link.springer.com
Consideration for social and environmental protection is not a luxury; it is a necessity (and a legal obligation) for the benefit of all, present and future.
Gilles Boulicot Aurovilian 12/12/2021
Dreamweaving the Crown? &
Crown Ways, a Proposal made by Dreamcatchers
David, Aurovilian, Architect.
After seeing the images and videos this morning from last night’s events I had tears in my eyes and genuinely felt at a loss for words – and now after the meeting in Kalabhumi I think it is important to share with everyone what has been happening from my particular perspective.
As many of you know I have spent a lot of time over the last couple of decades looking for ways to make the Galaxy Model work as a win-win solution for everyone – which from my perspective is exactly why Mother and Roger gave us such a complex concept in the first place. The Human Unity that seems to be so lacking at present is what overcoming our differences is supposed to lead us to – through an active collaboration and a genuine openness towards integrating different perspectives. However turning that very challenge that they gave us into a religious formula is the antithesis of what they intended.
In a discussion with Jos regarding the Sustainable Livelihood Institute, the Secretary first heard about the dreamweaving process which we had used in its design. Dr Ravi then approached me in September to ask if I would be willing to guide Auroville architects through a similar dreamweaving process, as a collaborative effort to try and overcome our existing differences. Since previous attempts hadn’t got anywhere I was initially hesitant, but after Omar offered to try to get everyone on board based upon a commonly agreed brief I then agreed to facilitate whatever dreamweaving sessions emerged.
Once we had engaged with a number of Auroville architects to initially test the water it was felt that as long as a clear brief could be agreed upon there would be more than enough interest to start organising a collaborative process for the Crown. Omar informed the TDC of this on the 1st October and we have been waiting for the promised brief ever since…
Then suddenly out of the blue I was asked a few days ago by TDC to attend a meeting with architects and planners from the Vastu Shilpa Foundation (VSF) to also explain the dreamweaving process to them. Omar was unfortunately out of town but attended via Zoom and we agreed to attend in the simple hope of getting some insight as to what was happening. However in the end we all had a very productive two-and-half hour meeting and everyone present was extremely enthusiastic about dreamweaving as a methodology for collaboration. In fact they were so enthusiastic that they even insisted that the Aurovilian architects should work together using the dreamweaving process on the whole of the Crown in order to help them fullfill their task – which is apparently to put together the Detailed Development Plans for the Auroville Township for the coming years.
Interestingly enough this particular meeting took place yesterday morning from 10.30am-1.00pm and during the meeting on multiple occasions it was reiterated to TDC that a collaborative process could only work on the assumption that no work should start on the ground until the process is complete. We were well aware of the letter that had been sent to the YC, but none of us had realised until long after the meeting that the JCBs were clearing ground in the same moment that we were getting reassurances that it wouldn’t happen.
I explain all this to highlight the fact that there has been a willingness since months from many of the Auroville architects to work together on a Crown design, that this had been requested from the Secretary, that the VSF then embraced our potential collective involvement wholeheartedly and that with this they would then be able provide much needed expertise to help further its elaboration with all the skills that they bring to the table.
I had considered sharing all this in Kalabhumi this afternoon, but in the end I sensed that it didn’t fit with the general focus of the meeting; however I’m writing now not only because I feel it is important for people to understand what I have just explained, but also to highlight that in my view there also appear to be active moves afoot by some Aurovilians to undermine the very involvement of the VSF. As a good example, the TDC sent out a massmail for the community to attend a meeting in SAWCHU with the visiting planners with only six minutes advanced warning (which has to be an all-time record even by Auroville standards!!) and yet once again many members of the ‘Universal Township’ group appear to have been informed in advance in order to be present to drive their position home. This is not the first time that I am aware of outside professionals being effectively cornered and told in no uncertain terms that they don’t understand what Auroville is about – however in this instance the VSF themselves were the ones to admit this point from the beginning which is why they are actively encouraging the active involvement and support of the community in order to help us move forward.
In my view the Master Plan which is presently being used as a hammer to push through an extremely narrow interpretation of Mother’s vision is not only manifesting the opposite of Human Unity but is simultaneously destroying the very Galaxy Model that they claim to want to build. If people want to experience the quality of consciousness, materials and form that Mother wished us to aspire towards I would recommend that they go and visit Golconde in Pondicherry. However, what we are ‘building’ with the Master Plan as it stands today is not only the opposite of everything that Golconde stood for but is also a pale shadow of what the Galaxy Model could potentially become if it is approached in an open and inclusive way.
In the hope of greater honesty and transparency,
By David Nightingale, Crown Ways, les chemins de La Couronne : a proposal made by Dreamcatchers in 2007 as an alternative to the Crown Road.