he site chosen for the international township of Auroville lies close to the Bay of Bengal in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, a few kilometers north of Pondicherry. Here, on February 28, 1968, in the midst of a severely eroded plateau extending eastward to the sea, young people representing 124 nations and 23 Indian states each placed a handful of earth from their countries in a simple lotus-shaped urn: a gesture symbolizing the start of the international township and birth of a new unified world.
Auroville, its charter states, belongs to nobody in particular, but to humanity as a whole. Based on the vision of two great spiritual leaders, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Auroville aims to realize, materially and spiritually, a true human unity.
The town plan layout for Auroville, as seen from above, looks like a spiral galaxy with four radiating sectors (the international, cultural, industrial, and residential zones) leading out to a surrounding greenbelt. These four sectors are focused on the Matrimandir, the geographical heart and spiritual soul of the township.
Between 1964 and 1973, some 2,000 acres of land were acquired for the project. These purchases consisted of parcels of varying sizes and configurations, occasionally contiguous, more often interspersed between village or government-owned lands; and it was on these scattered plots that the present pattern of Auroville settlements was established.
An early priority for Auroville was an intensive effort of environmental regeneration and reforestation, which has turned the formerly barren area into a green and sustainable environment. At the same time, emphasis was placed on the need for nonpolluting development using appropriate technology and alternative-energy generating systems, such as solar photovoltaics, wind, and biogas.
Since 1973, a further 700 acres have been acquired, largely with funds provided by Auroville residents and friends. These were plots required for the area around Matrimandir, expansion of settlements, consolidation of existing holdings, or the establishment of projects specific to certain areas of the township. But given all the other needs of Auroville, general land purchase was not seen as a matter of highest priority.
Auroville's development threatened
oday, Auroville's development according to its original plans is being threatened by:
- Rapidly escalating land prices caused by the urban and industrial expansion of the nearby city of Pondicherry
- Increasing real estate speculation on the Auroville plateau
- Dumping of untreated waste from Pondicherry on lands in and around Auroville
- Systematic spraying of pesticides on privately owned cashew plantations adjacent to Auroville land, which undermines the community's attempts to produce organically grown food and creates a health hazard for all people living in the area
Auroville's future has to be secured
ith these factors threatening the growth and future of the township, it is clear that the time has now come to secure the remaining land for Auroville's future.
In the area of the central township, some 300 acres still need to be acquired. Once this area has been consolidated, it will become possible to lay down the infrastructure essential for coherent future growth: roads, electricity and telephone cabling, water supply, sewage and waste treatment, etc. Acquisition of the land will also facilitate development of a number of other much needed projects.
In the greenbelt, a further 2,600 acres need to be purchased to link up existing areas of forest and organic farming land into a continuous greenbelt around the township. The present sanctuaries for natural regeneration -- already recognized internationally as an inspiring example of successful reforestation -- can only become fully secure and viable when the extra land around them is purchased.
An urgent appeal
o date, only 49% of the land required for Auroville has been acquired, and purchase of the remaining land has become imperative. It is clear that the bulk of monies needed to complete the work will have to be raised through appeals to friends outside. Furthermore, the promptest possible action is essential: a few more years of escalating prices could put lands essential to Auroville's future beyond reach, and could seriously impede implementation of the project.
With these considerations in mind, we appeal to people all over the world inspired by Auroville and its aims to help us, as a matter of urgency, buy the land that is still needed.
How to contribute
ax-deductible contributions for the Auroville Land Fund may be sent to Auroville International USA, P.O. Box 601, Sausalito, CA 94966 USA; phone, (415) 788-AURO.
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Guy lives in Auroville and works with the Auroville Land Fund.