CHENNAI: A bridge between the past and the future - the ‘universal town’ of Auroville began with the intention of expression of human progress. Today, organic agriculture, afforestation and renewable energy are a big part of Auroville along with art, craft, yoga and village empowerment. Taking the concepts of Auroville out of the closed township into the busy hub of Chennai is the month-long ‘What is Auroville’ festival, and Aurovilians came together to speak of sustainable futures they are practicing.
“Auroville is a place where people with passion have the opportunity to pursue it,” said Paul Blanchflower, the project director of Auroville Botanical Garden.
When the idea of Auroville Botanical Garden was conceived, the place was barren but has now has become a thriving green space.
The vegetation was integrated into community life, with plants that are used for medicinal purposes, ceremonies, for wood. “If you are going to use it, you would conserve it,” he said. Local plants, he added, use less water, and the flowering evergreen plants reduce the ambient temperature. “We have forgotten the intrinsic joy of riding a bicycle, of touching the soil.”
While the Auroville Botanical Garden tries to restore the forest ecosystem that stretched along the coast of Bengal, another Aurovilian Joss Brooks established the forest of Pitchandikulam in the Green Belt of Auroville, with over 600 plant species.
The Pitchandikulam team also worked on the restoration of the 350 acre Adyar Poonga wetland. They are also working on areas like Srinivasapuram and Foreshore Estate to create community spaces that can be used by all sections of society.
“Community spaces have to to be both for the upmarket as well as for people like the fishing community. Even train stations need to be vibrant public spaces with community centres and galleries,” said Joss.
With Chennai being in the list of 100 resilient cities announced by the Rockefeller Foundation, the development challenges are crucial considering the explosive growth of the city.
Waste recycling, social entrepreneurship and energy conservation that are being attempted at Auroville, they said, should be taken up seriously if we need to sustain with the only earth that we have.