News & Notes 864:Notes on the presentations made during the Forest Group/ Youth Centre GM of 27-03-2021

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864 icon.jpg   News & Notes 864
3 April 2021

Auroville Town Development Council
Notes on the presentations made during the Forest Group/ Youth Centre GM of 27-03-2021

Time line presentation:

The first presentation by forest group began by a history of the dispute. A timeline was disclosed that began in 2019. In our view the historical context began in 1968, February 28, when Auroville was inaugurated and a first presentation of its Charter and the Galaxy plan of the Auroville Township were disclosed to the world at large. There was no doubt that this was the city the Mother wanted to manifest to further Sri Aurobindo’s vision of the next phase of human evolution which would be formed by the manifestation of a new force on earth. “….a new form is needed for a new force”. A lot of fundraising was done and a significant portion of the lands were purchased from donations given by well-wishers from all over the world. Many of the local land owners came forward to offer their lands for the new project of the Divine Mother.

Because of disputes, misunderstandings arose and the planning process became loosely structured and as lands needed to be protected from encroachment, trees were planted in the absence of any other clear directions of town development. The work trees were planted to regenerate the lands and make the lands habitable.

However the position of Matrimandir was located by 1971 in the center of the planned township which also gave indications of the four zones of the master plan. All buildings in the planned city area was of a temporary nature to allow for permanent structures to be manifested when plans would be ready. This planning and approval of Master plan of Auroville was approved by RA in 2001 and gazetted by government of India in 2010.

It was presented that now it is for the forest/Green group to allot land for the city. When and how did this role change happen? When and Who sanctioned this? No answers are presented to these questions. No time was provided for any discussion. The general process is green group recommends the stewards.

The ATDC is given the role of planning in the City Master plan area approved by the RA . Buildings with temporary building permissions were made to situate on already designate infrastructure and crown ways in order to create road blocks to planned development. The buildings themselves are of very poor design and quality and time has come to rebuild properly as per the plan. Youth groups will be provided locations to choose for the Youth Center provided the visions and the purposes are clearly stated and defined.

Forest Group presentation:

1. It was said that the Green Group “allocates” land to the Forest Group and the Farm Group. This allocation is only in true context when the area is green belt and the green buffer zone of the city master plan. The l’avenir d’Auroville team is to be providing the planning parameters for green parks in the city area for proper entries and exits and walkways in context of the movement and flow of people.

2. It was presented that the Forest Group manages 739 acres of green belt land, 421 acres of “outside master plan” lands and 300 acres of “inner city” lands. This gives a total of 1,460 acres. The 300 acres of “inner city” lands represent about 25% of the planned city lands. These city lands have to be primarily in the planning under ATDC. The stewardship criteria will be developed by ATDC in consultation with various stake holders and suggested to FAMC to choose those who apply and fit the criteria.

3. It was said that the Forest Group finances itself. In reality BCC provides budgets to various groups such as forest and farm groups.

  • Can the Forest Group publish finances for the last five financial years?
  • How are the Forest Group finances reflected in the consolidated accounts, balance sheet and annual report of Auroville Foundation?
  • What was the net financial benefit that Auroville Foundation got from the management of 1,460 acres of land by the Forest Group during the last 5 years?

4. It was said that forests have been “handed over harmoniously” for city development (examples were given) after negotiations. But how did city lands get “handed over” to the Forest Group to begin with? How can there be “negotiations” and a conditional “handing over” of Auroville Foundation’s own land when the use of that land is already specified in the notified Auroville Master Plan and to be done by ATDC?

5. It was said that there is no “community agreed-upon concept” for the city. The city concept and the Galaxy master plan were key points that the Mother herself guided Roger to work with. The fact of the matter is that there is an approved and notified Auroville Master Plan that includes “Development Code / Regulations” in part three (page 85 onwards).

6. The comparison with the national highway is misleading. The Crown is not a highway and is meant to have slow moving e-mobility. In 1965 Roger wrote a detailed note to the Mother with proposed guidelines for Auroville township. On cars he wrote:

“The rule of cars has conditioned town planning during the 20th Century and keeps tyrannising it. Though outdated, and everybody knowing it, cars are doing their best to create an inferno within cities and killing people outside it. Therefore, one has to opt for prohibiting it [...] and replacing it by some other means more hygienic, taking less space, less noisy, more aesthetic, possibly newer – if possible.”

The Mother writes in the margin of the note:

“Small size electrically powered vehicles, capable of transporting about 200 Kg at a speed of 15 km/h.”

Clearly, the Mother and Roger were way ahead of their times.

Environmental Impact Study (EIS) presentation:

1. The brief given / assumed for the study itself is wrong. The project is not about a cable with a 3m wide clearance, but about the Crown way. As the word “environmental” suggests, an environmental impact study needs to look at the impact of a development on the wider environment such as the master plan as a whole in context of the bio-region, not on a narrow strip of land consisting of the specific RoW, of about 0.0063 kM2 (assuming a RoW width of 18m).

2. The issue at hand is that trees have been planted right on top of the area known as the Crown. Assuming a Crown RoW width of 18m and a Crown segment length of 350m, the area under review represents about 0.031% of the Auroville Master Plan area and 0.13% of the city area. The total Crown RoW area is 0.39% of the master plan land area. The removal of these trees must be seen in the wider environmental context of Auroville and the region. The EIS says that 153 trees need to be cut for a 3m wide RoW. Assuming that for a maximum 18m width, the total number of trees is 900, this intervention needs to be put in the context of the total number of trees planted elsewhere, the CO2 sequestration impact that needs to be compensated for (or has already been compensated for) and other parameters.

3. Replacing the planned circular Crown with the routing of the existing temporary road that includes a sharp 90 degrees bend and that is 30% longer makes no sense from the environmental angle. It means that for all times to come, 30% more mobility energy will be needed, even if that energy will come from renewable energy sources in the (near) future.

4. The cost comparison between the two cable routing options is defective. It does not take into account that all other future cable and pipes will also have to be 30% longer. There will be a second HT cable (at the other side of the Crown RoW) when the Auroville population approaches 15,000. There will be LT cables, communication cables, water mains and sub-mains, water recycling pipes etc. for which l’avenir d’Auroville / the TDC prepared and distributed service corridor drawings to all Auroville infrastructure services in March 2012 and September 2016. It is based on these service corridor designs and related cable routings that plans and estimates for cables and related transformers and switchgear were made. These cannot be changed at the flag-end of the HT ring mains installation work of which only the last 8% needs to be completed. Increasing the length of electrical cables by 30% does not have consequences for the upfront capital cost alone. If the length of a cable is increased by 30%, so will its resistance and energy losses. Therefore, for all times to come, energy losses will be 30% higher in this Crown segment. In the case of water, there will be higher pressure losses, which need to be compensated for by higher pumping pressures, which again translates into higher energy consumption.

5. Therefore, if a genuine and objective impact study would have been done it would probably have concluded that the proposed alternative routing (the temporary road) causes in the long term a significant negative environmental impact.

6. Was any township development impact study conducted before the planting of trees and the construction of (temporary) structures at Youth Centre?

7. Many observations made in the study presentation were generic and not specific to the area for which the study was meant to be done.

8. Clearly the EIS is defective in many respects.

Youth Centre presentation:

1. The story of the Youth Centre reflects the unwelcome and unsustainable territorial culture that has penetrated Auroville at all levels. When some in Auroville suggested that the Youth Centre may be built in Hermitage (an area outside the Auroville Master Plan) it was the team working with Roger (the Chief Architect) that proposed a location inside the city area. That location faced resistance from certain future neighbors of the Youth Centre and without further consultations with the Chief Architect the location was shifted to the present location where one (temporary) building has been constructed right on top of the Crown and which has now resulted in a territorial attitude that is not much different from the one that caused the project to be treated as it was.

2. The solution to this problem is not the relocation of the Crown but finding a permanent location for the Youth Centre, if indeed a Youth Centre of the present type is needed. Numerous studies show that segregation of younger and older generations does not contribute to well-being and in fact can lead to social isolation. This raises the question as to why Auroville needs a separate “Youth Centre” that is physically isolated from other parts of the township. There can be, and there are, several multipurpose venues in Auroville (many of them under-utilized) where events can be organized and it would contribute to a healthy socio-economic life if the youth of Auroville do not live isolated from the rest of the township.

Galaxy presentation:

1. The Auroville Master Plan provided for the preparation of 5-year detailed development plans (DDPs). The Governing Board had noted over the years in several of its meetings that DDPs need to be prepared with a sense of urgency. In spite of repeated request form L’avenir, only around rupees seventy thousand and five maintenances are made available. The city of dawn deserves much more resources in helping it to manifest.

2. Instead of preparing DDPs a “system” of “building permissions” was introduced where in the absence of DDPs ad-hoc decisions needs to be taken. It is time a township with (detailed) urban plans, urban design drawings and a comprehensive infrastructure back bone be created at the earliest.

3. The following data must be kept in mind while discussing the Auroville Master Plan and related main RoWs:

  • Land area of the main RoWs (Crown, 12 radials, International Zone loop road, outer ring): 1.72% of the total master plan land area;
  • Land area of the Crown RoW: 0.39% of the total master plan area; 1.56% of the city area (RoW width of 18m assumed).
  • Total adult population of Auroville (census January 2021): 3,734. Persons actively involved in township physical infrastructure development work: 15 (0.40%).
  • Capital expenditure on township infrastructure in FY 2019-2020 is about 1.96% of total Auroville Foundation Expenditure and 5.71% of the Auroville Foundation expenditure exclusive of expenditure incurred by income generating units (“Furtherance Activities”).
  • Total Auroville Master Plan land area: 20 KM2; Planned city area: 5 KM2, planned green belt area: 15 KM2. Planned built-up area of the city: less than 50%; planned built-up area of the green belt: less than 5%. Ratio of total built-up area to total master plan area: 16%. With an effective green belt of 7.5 KM2 this ratio becomes: 26%.

Map presentation:

1. The existing telephone and optical fibre cables and all existing and future water pipes also need to shift to the Crown RoW where also the other future infrastructure services will be installed. This can be done at low cost, since unlike HT cables, the cost of trenching is significantly higher than the cable cost in the case of optical fibre and sub-distribution telephone cables.

2. A circular road does not cause acceleration as is the case with centrifugal forces. In the case of Auroville the Mother wanted slow moving e-vehicles. Collective mobility options along with e-bicycle and pedestrian pathways are the move going forward.

3. Deviations from the Crown of the past, do not justify similar deviations in the future.

Charter presentation:

1. The Mother has never said that there must be “unity” before the city can be built. She wanted the city to be built within a time line. The growth of unity and brotherhood is an ongoing work in all aspects of Auroville life. If the city cannot be built before there is “unity” amongst the present Auroville residents, the same should apply to all development, including forests. The Unity Pavilion in which these statements were made should not have been built either and the same applies to the houses in which the persons making these statements live.

2. Arguments such as the “city is being built at the cost of spiritualty” does not stand ground with the raison d’ ệtre of Auroville and the vision of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. This is the yoga of works, done together to serve the Truth.

The way forward:

1. All use of lands in the city and greenbelt areas has to be in accordance with the notified Auroville Master Plan. Land use implementation to be coordinated by the Auroville Town Development Council. In the case of external factors and ground realities that do not allow land usage as planned (in the immediate future), the TDC shall take appropriate (interim) planning proposals. All land stewardships to be reviewed within the city master plan by L’avenir.

2. Preparation of Detailed Development Plans (DDPs) for each zone to be completed by February 2022 latest. All development to be in compliance with these DDPs going forward.

3. All Auroville residents to be encouraged to participate in town planning and development. Please see also Appendix V of the Auroville Master Plan. Youth of Auroville to also come forward and work with the larger goal of development. Everyone is invited to work, not by themselves in own silos. The past shows that this has not worked and has always led to entitlement and sense of ownership leading to problems of collective township development.

4. All unused green belt areas of Auroville to be opened to other stewardship for any green projects.

5. The Youth Center team to work with the TDC team on a project proposal for a permanent Youth Center in the cultural zone while the youth are encouraged to reside in the residential areas of Auroville along with other age groups (from segregation to integration).

6. Some of the outlying lands to be sold or exchanged to consolidate city lands.

7. All main rights-of-way (Crown, 12 radials, International Zone loop, outer ring), including those in which underground infrastructure services have already been installed, to be cleared for the full design width (this is about 1.72% of the total master plan area).

8. A topographic survey shall be conducted at the earliest for the Youth Centre and Bliss area.


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