News & Notes 646:Kalpana project – General Meeting Report from the RAS

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646 icon.jpg   News & Notes 646
23 April 2016



Kalpana project – General Meeting Report from the RAS


On Friday, April 15, 2016, the Residents’ Assembly Service (RAS) held a General Meeting to discuss:

  • Lessons Learned from the Kalpana Project
  • Developing Systems for Harmonious Growth

Over 300 residents attended the meeting, a record high.

The RAS called the meeting at the request of the Concerned Residents of Auroville (CoRe) group.

The following report is assembled from a series of inputs that include:

A. Proposals made during the meeting; and
B. Proposals received by email after the meeting.

(The complete audio recording of the meeting is available.)

Agenda:

  • Introduction – RAS: 5 min
  • Concerned Residents of Auroville (CoRe) presentation: 15 min
  • Kalpana Project Team presentation: 15 min
  • Town Development Council (TDC) presentation: 10 min
  • Clarification session – responses to questions from the room: 20 min
  • Consolidation of existing and new proposals for improvements: 30 min
  • General Discussion: 15 min
  • Conclusion: 5 min


A. Proposals made at the meeting

Proposals from CoRe

CoRe projected the following proposals on the meeting screen during the meeting.

It argued that Auroville needs: “A mechanism that would ideally address:

  • the way new projects consult and engage the community; and
  • the way new projects are implemented (see for example, the draft tree-cutting proposal below).

Proposals

1. Collect concrete suggestions on how to find a common way forward – these should be formulated as invitations or ideas, not as ultimatums or conditions. These should be just offered and collected – not debated.

2. Agree on a first step forward on the pending question “How do we want to build Auroville?” – as Kalpana seems merely a symptom of an immature participatory planning process.

3. Agree to form a “Landing Group” that supports TDC with all site related processes (land surveys, tree surveys, ecological feasibility, information sharing, stakeholder dialogues, cutting of trees etc.)

4. See the beginning of a dialogue of all Kalpana stakeholders. This group will work with the project holders to ensure that the implementation of Kalpana is as harmonious as possible and will specifically address:

  • Amar’s relocation,
  • the allocation of apartments vis a vis actual housing needs of Aurovilians,
  • construction timings,
  • an agreement to avoid aggression, violence and threats,
  • the addition of public spaces for children to be creative and play

5. Leave the meeting in harmony

Tree-cutting Policy

The community needs to establish a policy that informs the cutting of trees.

That policy could include:

  • Structures must be designed around existing trees, such that:
  • Ideally no or the fewest possible number of trees are cut.
  • Trees that are to be cut should be clearly marked in a way that is visible from a distance.
  • Sufficient notice must be be given before trees are cut.
  • Trees planned to be cut must be clearly marked on the site map.
  • Old and/or significant trees must be given priority and ideally left if possible.
  • Planning should include tree experts familiar with which trees are more valuable than others.
  • Any tree cutting should be done by a sensitive Aurovilian tree-cutting team (TreeCare for example).

Proposals recorded during the discussion

The following are a list of proposals made during the meeting discussion from notes taken by a resident at the meeting:

  1. Take into account the access to Kailash for any development in the area (including the round-about).
  2. Set up an Architects’ Service and stop the system of architect fees.
  3. The system of exchanging houses on the basis of depreciated value needs to be reviewed.
  4. We need more housing for young people as was done near Citadyn (La Maison des Jeunes).
  5. Take into account the water balance for all types of development.
  6. Set up a “Landing Group” for all projects.
  7. Make use of external help, if needed, not only for the technical planning work.
  8. Set up a “Stake Holders Consultation Group” for all development projects.
  9. Make use of tree experts and the Tree Cutting Team.
  10. We all seem to feel that we did everything “right’. Can we also reflect a little while on what we did “wrong”.
  11. We need a Competent Planning team. This must be our first priority.
  12. All our projects must be in accordance with a vision we have defined beforehand in the form of aims, objectives and a plan to refer to. This relates to city life, form, space, health, ecology, etc. During this early definition process participation of all interested groups is essential.
  13. Present all projects at community level during different stages of development.
  14. Gather in silence and solutions will come.

B. Proposals received by email

The following feedback and proposals were received in an email sent to the RAS:

Feedback One

1) Trees versus development: a false problem?

Once the site on the Crown had been approved, the architects came up with a first proposal for the buildings. This proposal thoughtfully avoided the destruction of the main tree grove around the Kalaripayat platform. It also concentrated the buildings more in the centre of the plot.

This proposal for urban form was rejected after convincing inputs from Kaja who was working on the layout for Sectors 1 and 2 and the architects were asked to come up with another plan with the specific mention that they had to integrate the Crown frontage in their proposal.

The architects then went back to the drawing board and came up with the present layout which uses the plot in an enclosed way, that is all the buildings are at the periphery of the plot. This brought the difficulties we know, sacrifice of the very significant vegetation and closeness to Vikas. When asked by the table to try and remedy these by bringing the buildings closer together, the architects and project holders argued that the West building was as distant from Vikas as it was from Kalpana's North building so why should they squash up and that, as they were asked to change their original plans by TDC, we could not come again with concerns about the big trees as this would have meant going back to the drawing board yet again.

This to say that when in the meeting people argued that we needed to cut the vegetation in order to build apartments for people on that plot, it is not correct. Of course some would have had to be cut but not the clear cutting of a very special grove with rare and even unique specimen trees we are seeing associated to this project.

Proposal for the future:
Land stewards for the city area have to be appointed. They will be consulted when development is proposed and site applications are studied so that key elements regarding what to look out for in the vegetation and the run-off water management are taken care of and built form has to work its way around those.
I would propose Glenn, Peter, Dominik and Jaap.
I fully endorse the proposal of Renu that Tree Care be asked to carry out the necessary cutting so it is done in a conscious manner.

2) Seeing the plots as islands

Also, the table at the time pointed out that the present layout will mean a severe restriction of options for the use on the next plot between Kalpana and Kailash.

In order tho ensure a minimum breathing space from the West building the architects for that plot will be forced to concentrate high density in the centre of their plot.

Whereas the Crown frontage continuum was well thought through with the architects of Kalpana, they did not respond to the TDC's concerns about them using the plot all the way up to its borders, – again citing the impossibility for them to get back to the drawing board – resulting in the difficulty with Vikas about what they perceive as a further encroachment of a couple of meters onto their space.

This is symptomatic or the deeper unease of Vikas at seeing luxury apartments coming up very close to the existing low cost, simple lifestyle they are enjoying.

Proposal for the future:
Architects for a particular site need to show how their plans are taking care not to restrict the options of the next plot.

3) Addressing the guilt feeling

Kalpana got their Building Permission not because TDC felt this was a good project but because members felt they could not block it due to the lengthy process that had gone on.

With the present functioning chosen by the community 3 years ago, as Sauro pointed out, not only have we lost the communication platform of L'Avenir but we also have in place coordinators for each aspect.

This leads to in the case the architects having to deal with the coordinator on Urban Design, which understandably takes time for a project like this.

Once they have gone through that series of meeting that tries to take care of that particular aspect they are not open to go through more lengthy meetings about other aspects.

It is important that we review this community decision and that the totality of the project be looked at by the totality of the TDC.

Proposal for the future:
Proposals to the community, be they about TDC structuration, Entry, Famc etc... need to be better presented to the community with the ins and out, pros and cons and consequences of the choices clearly explained. Where we want to go, why, what are the advantages and disadvantages.
For what regards TDC, a clear brief to the project holders of the different aspects they need to clear with TDC has to be established.

Questions

I would also like to have answers to the following questions:

a) How many Aurovilians have put their names down for paying for an apartment in Kalpana (excluding Satyakam and Devasmita)?

Proposal for the future:
A minimum number of 40% of the apartments for a specific project need to be spoken for before the building can get its NOC. It is crucial that genuine interest from Aurovilians in the project by elucidated. Otherwise it is back to rich people deciding what they want to do which may not be what others actually need or want.

b) How come, when the TDC specifically rejected parking spaces for residents cars that the project holder is announcing the very same are still in the project?

Proposal for the future:
A detailed presentation to the community when the Building Permission is about to be given so that the

community can be cognisant of what is really being proposed and how the concerns regarding for example mobility are taken care of.

Feedback Two

The TDC prior to the present one had set up a “Communication Platform”. It may be of interest to find out why that also did not work.

TDC publishes the detailed development plan (DDP) for each of the four zones so that instead of all these ad-hoc feedbacks on small stretches of road and individual buildings the totality of the development is discussed and finalised including the urban plan, the urban design and the lay-out of the infrastructure.

Mr. Doshi has offered to have his team in Ahmedabad prepare such DPP.

Never in the history of Auroville has so much communication and interaction taken place on a housing project. Give the Kalpana team a big applause for having done that even though this should have been done by the TDC Communication Team.

  • It is recommended that Auroville Foundation undertakes construction works (buildings and infrastructure) with its own internal design, engineering construction and infrastructure services with the following implementation models:...
  • For projects for which internal services of Auroville Foundation have sufficient capacity, skills and experience, the project may be taken up entirely by internal Auroville services on a turn-key basis. In this model there is no involvement of an external contractor.


For more information please don’t hesitate to email the RAS at raservice (at) auroville.org.in or call us on 948-6623-749.


Kind regards,
Residents Assembly Service