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Auroville Articles: Environmental Regeneration

When Auroville was founded in 1968, regeneration of the environment was the foremost concern of the pioneers, as the site chosen for the Auroville Township was severely eroded. Today, with massive wasteland reclamation and the planting of millions of trees, Auroville has transformed a veritable desert into a lush green landscape. Auroville's environmental efforts, which have gained national and international acclaim, now reach out to over 100 villages in an area of 740 km2.

The Pioneering Years
Auroville's earliest settlers confronted a land that had been totally ruined over two hundred years of deforestation, bad land management practices and over-grazing. Undaunted, Aurovilians set about to restore the barren land. In this first phase of reforestation, hardy species that could withstand the near-drought conditions were planted, and live fences were put up to protect the young trees from foragers. Simultaneously, an integrated soil and water conservation programme for land regeneration was undertaken.

Present Trends
Within Auroville there are forests and sanctuaries, a seed museum, seed-exchange networks, a herbarium, and a botanical garden to conserve the native bio-diversity. Auroville also runs 14 ecological farms and promotes sustainable agriculture in the bioregion.

The current trend in Auroville's reforestation programme within the township area is to reintroduce the Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest, the indigenous forest of which only a marginal fringe survives today.

In the larger bioregion, Auroville's efforts are primarily geared towards protection of bio-diversity, wasteland reclamation, integrated watershed management, and promotion and dissemination of local health traditions.

Protection of bio-diversity. Shakti and Pitchandikulam Bio Resource Centre have taken active steps to protect 2,500 acres of remnant patches of the Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest in Tamil Nadu from further deforestation. Species surveys of these forest patches have been conducted and studied. The Auroville Herbarium has over 6,000 accessions from different forest types of India. In the Auroville Botanical Gardens, over 5,000 speciemens of the the Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest have been planted in the conservation area and 300 species of trees and shrubs have been planted in the Arboretum.

Wasteland reclamation. Palmyra offers a consolidated programme of soil and water conservation, reforestation and wasteland reclamation. It has restored thousands of hectares of wasteland in the bioregion.

Renovation of water catchment tanks. Water Harvest and Palmyra promote an integrated watershed management that targets the rehabilitation of ancient water catchment tanks in the bioregion and in the Pondicherry area.

Restoration of local health traditions. Pitchandikulam Bio-Resource Centre works towards establishing community registers in the local villages to systematically document the traditional knowledge of medicinal plants and other bio-resources. Shakti and Pitchandikulam Bio-resource Centre maintain in-situ herb gardens and medicinal plant demonstration sites and distribute seedlings from these gardens to over 400 gardens in 30 villages.

Wastewater recycling. The Auroville Centre for Scientific Research (CSR) helps to conserve water and prevent groundwater pollution by researching and implementing decentralised waste water treatment systems suitable for tropical conditions. Applied Research in EM technology. Auroville has an international reputation for its successful experimentation and application of Effective Microorganisms (EM) technology for a variety of environmental uses. AuroAnnam has developed EM-fermented plant extract (EM-FPE) from locally available plants for pest management.

Workshops and training programmes. Auroville organisations involved in environmental regeneration offer regular training programmes and workshops to villagers, NGO development workers, and government officials.

Future Plans
The Auroville Township Master Plan envisages a green belt of 3,650 acres, comprised of farms and forests that will surround the city area. As Auroville currently owns only 45% of the designated township area, and outside development pressures are mounting, there is an urgent need to acquire and protect the remaining land.

Many more wastelands in the bioregion also need to be restored and to introduce, if possible, using a people's participatory approach, the Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest in village commons.

Capital investment is needed to purchase 50 more acres for the Auroville Botanical Garden and to develop it. There are already plans to host therein an Auroville Institute of Botanical and Ecological Studies to better disseminate Auroville's expertise in environmental regeneration and afforestation.

Through a growing network of environmental activities Auroville aspires to integrate urban development with a green environment and thus serve as an eco-city model for a sustainable future.

Auroville responds to the global challenge of deforestation by finding local solutions to restore Nature's fragile ecosystems.




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