In harmony with nature
Minimal energy consumption and carbon footprint, use of biogas and solar panels, decentralised water treatment… a look at life in Auroville.
When we discuss alternatives to the mainstream development of today, the often-heard scepticism is about the applicability of such ideas. The majority, who stick on to the existing modes, tend to opine that eco-friendly ideas are lofty and are not achievable. Of course, no new idea can be right away implementable everywhere, but the fact that alternative ideas are gaining ground is a visible phenomenon.
Auroville, located near Pondicherry, is a shining example of how the alternatives can be explored, developed and applied. The township, officially started in 1968, has about 2,500 people from 50 nations living in harmony with nature, with minimal wastage, energy consumption and carbon footprint.
Following the early explorations of form, shape and materiality, Aurovilleans soon started working with earthy materials, construction options, bio-gas, water pumps, solar panels, ammonia filters, decentralised water treatment and such others. These explorations were not limited to professionals, but everyone with a passion for them collaborated and developed them. The ‘let’s try’ attitude ensured many of these ideas becoming a success.
The challenge was not just to discover or invent, but be able to change the mindsets. To that end, exploring for the future meant the architecture had to be innovative both in modern materials like ferro-cement and in reviving traditional ideas such as stabilised mud blocks, oxide floors, arches, domes, rammed earth walls, and thatch roofs. To that end, Anupama, Dharmesh, Mona, Poppo, Roger, Satprem, Suhasini, and many others have contributed greatly.
A city plan comprising peace area, industrial area, international area, residential area, cultural area and green belt was developed based on the 1967 master plan. Houses are grouped around small clusters called communities, nearly self-contained which do not grow beyond a small number. They are so located that high densities are avoided and long travel needs are reduced. Many of them have common facilities like furnished kitchen, solar collectors, water pumps, wind mills and such others, which make better use of resources by the act of sharing.
The township itself boasts of the Solar Kitchen powered by one of the largest of solar collectors that collects heat from the Sun to enable cooking. Rain water is harvested, grey water is recycled and sewage water is treated by varied alternates including dewats and root zone.
Much can be written about Auroville, both in positive praise and in negative criticism. The latter revolves around it being a small community of people educated and converted to an alternative, hence Auroville ideas may not work in the competitive marketplace. However, in no other human settlement across the globe can we see a phenomenon like it. Auroville truly makes green sense.