News & Notes Top
Number 249 - February 6th 2008
The team of the Auroville Earth
Institute, along with volunteers, built the care taker's house of
the Realization project in 8 days.
The house was precast in the
Auroville Earth Institute premises in about 6-7 weeks:
All materials were transported to
the site in 3 days and the house was assembled in about 64 hours by
a daily team of 16 paid workers and 10 to 15 volunteers. This house
has been conceived as moveable and no cement mortar or cement
concrete has been used to assemble the house. Only earth mortars and
earth concretes were used to bind the compressed stabilised earth
This house can be dismantled with
a minimum loss of materials, transported anywhere and rebuild as
such. We organised a huge construction game, a kind of Lego game for
children from 11 to 60 years old. This house of 31 m2 (built up
area) cost about 2.1 Lakhs Rs. including a solar system, water
supply from Creativity, a wastewater system and all finishes.
We want to thanks all the volunteers,
paid workers who contributed to this challenge. We want also to
thank the Housing Service who agreed to finance this house and
people from Creativity for their kind support. The house can be seen
on the side of the radial road on the way to Prayatna, north of
Satprem Maïni for the Auroville Earth
Auroville Today Top
I am going to break into one of those big empty Auroville houses and occupy
it.’Ana from Brazil, till recently a swimming instructor in Auroville’s
swimming pool, La Piscine, is angry. She is one of the many newcomers to
Auroville who have no house. She and her seven year-old daughter are
renting now, but they have to leave the place when the guest season begins.
‘I’m gonna make a big riot in Auroville,’ she warns.
There is a serious housing problem in
Auroville. Of the 130 newcomers in Auroville, 60 are on a waiting list for a
house. The 30 newcomer houses are all full, often with Aurovilians. They are
stuck there, because construction seems to be at a complete standstill in
Auroville. Ana wants a house, not rooms in a guesthouse, for she wants to be
able to receive friends and schoolmates of daughter Jara. Others are facing
the same problem. Newcomer Julie from France is one of them. She and her
three year-old son Arie also have to vacate soon. ‘At the moment there are
houses available in the villages around Auroville that nobody dares to rent,
for it could be a reason for the Entry Group to revoke your newcomer status.
What if the Housing Service rents these places and we rent from them? At
least for some newcomers the problem can be solved.’
Joseba from the Housing Service is
sceptical. ‘I think that this idea can bring more problems than benefits. It
is mentioned in the Housing Policy that people must live in Auroville. And
also the visa that has been granted is only for living in Auroville.
Relaxing these rules might cause an influx of people from the villages who
only want to join Auroville for economic reasons. It will be more difficult
to check on the behaviour of the newcomers.’
Do it yourself
The present acute housing problem was on
the agenda at a meeting held recently at Auroville’s Centre for Scientific
Research. A group of fifty, mostly newcomers, Aurovilians, no longer want to
wait for the planners in the Town Hall. They have started a co-operative to
build low-cost houses themselves, making use of compressed earth blocks.
According to Satprem, the executive of the Auroville Earth Institute, it is
possible to start building in a few months, once the bricks are ready.
Several newcomers have already stopped the work they were doing in Auroville,
to make compressed earth blocks instead.
‘The houses will be twinned or grouped in four, with one or
two floors,’ explains Satprem. The building costs are estimated at 5.1 lakhs
rupees (about $9,300) for a family house of 95 square meters, excluding
infrastructure. The smaller houses will be cheaper. According to Satprem the
first 8 houses can be ready before the 40th birthday of Auroville on
February 28th, 2008.
‘It is likely that there are more people than the 60 on the list who are in
need of a house in Auroville,’ says Joseba, ‘but we have no reliable data.
All attempts to get the figures have been unsuccessful. People move but do
not tell us, or they are still on a waiting list, but already live somewhere
else.’ Joseba admits that there are empty houses in Auroville that could be
used, but many refuse to give information about these or have a vague story
about why the house is not occupied. The present Housing Policy has never
been implemented. People should tell the Housing Service that their house is
empty when they are away for more than six months. The Housing Service will
then find somebody to live in that house. But many Aurovilians, who can be
away for five years and remain listed, want to control ‘their’ house
themselves. ‘Perhaps the topic could be brought to a general meeting. We
could also ask via the News and Notes, members of each community to give
names of neighbors who leave their houses empty for months or years.’
Why is there a housing problem in
Auroville? It turns out the architects, planners and developers have
differences in their approach. One approach focuses on developing plans, but
the plans are never implemented. The other is more pragmatic, and wants an
organic growth for Auroville. Whenever the two orientations cannot reach an
agreement, they study more. ‘Paralysis from analysis’ is the result. It also
reflects the present state of Auroville’s collective being and its
residents’ inability to find a creative and harmonious solutions.
But there are other reasons why the
building of new houses have come to a complete standstill. And that is the
Aurovilians themselves. Most communities do not want more houses. The
residents are comfortable in their apartments or houses. They don’t want a
spacious environment to turn into the higher density of a city.
There are eight planned extensions of
existing communities have not yet begun. And apart from the cooperative
project, four new projects are on the drawing table. There seems to be no
valid reason why most of these could not start immediately.
Of these projects, Maitreye is most
likely to happen. The plan involves apartments for 250 - 280 people. The
first phase of the project is due to start next January, when the masons can
begin work. Five models of houses have been designed for Maitreye. The team
that is responsible for the design and planning want to keep the costs as
low as possible. But to avoid creating a ghetto, they offer more options
than the cheapest one. A family house of 100 square meters will be available
in the price range of 6 to 10 lakh rupees (about $11,000-18,000), depending
on the finish. An apartment for a single resident (40 sq.m) can be obtained
from 3.5 lakh rupees (about $7,000).
The new Housing Task Force
Now a Housing Task Force has been formed,
consisting of members of L’Avenir d’Auroville, the Housing group, a few
Auroville Architects, the FAMC and some others. The Task Force meets
regularly and tries to speed up the tempo of building. The Satprem group
could probably get a plot nearby Vikas and Creativity. Lalit from L’Avenir
d’Auroville shows a blueprint: ‘The Housing Task Force aim to prepare a
layout plan for the entire sector 2 of the Residential Zone, which is to
house approximately 3500 residents. We have most of the land and better
possibilities of connecting to the existing water infrastructure in that
area. A detailed development plan is to be prepared for the area between
Prayatna and Sailam and guidelines and parameters are to be given for new
housing schemes. The 32 houses from Satprem’s group can be part of that
development. Once ready, such a development plan could meet the housing
demand for years to come.
Another challenge for the Housing Task
Force is to think of other means of financing houses, as not everybody has
the money that is needed. Sauro from the Task Force explains: ‘Basically we
would like to associate the housing development with a kind of financial
pooling that could involve housing projects for up to 300 persons. Based on
the experience from abroad of cooperative housing, the idea is to create a
common fund for grant contributions from Auroville, some external loans and
contributions from house builders. It is a revolving fund. It should have
the advantage of providing a personalized scheme to each applicant. It can
include deferring the investment and the expenses for the house over a
certain number of years or receiving a partial subsidy etc. However it will
take some time to prepare a working proposal for such a scheme.
But many house-seekers need immediate
solutions. That is why a group of desperate newcomers asked Aurovilians for
help. Invite a newcomer to your house, was the request. Only one Aurovilian
offered a room.
Guest-houses to help
Could the many guest-houses in Auroville
help out and take a few newcomers for a year or two? For there are 300
registered guest-rooms in Auroville with more than 500 beds. Joseba thinks
this might be an option. ‘The Housing Service has already started talks with
the Auroville guest-houses. They will be asked to accommodate fewer guests
in the coming season and instead offer rooms or units to newcomers in need.
A group of guesthouses have shown interest in this proposal and want to
co-operate. We are discussing the conditions and we have requested that the
maximum charge should not exceed 5000 rupees per month.
Recently L’Avenir d’Auroville, the FAMC
and the Housing Service issued a public declaration proposing to build 200 -
250 houses each year. There is goodwill, but can this unblock the situation?
Lalit is hopeful: ‘If all the involved people and groups cooperate with a
larger vision and actively focus on meeting the housing demand, there is a
good possibility that we can create far more accommodation in the years to
News & Notes Top
Number 223 - 22 December 2007
A weekly bulletin for residents of Auroville
Realization Project - Earth matters
Report on the meeting from Thursday 13 th
Last Thursday, the first meeting was held
with the prospective future residents of Realization. The participants had
responded to an email survey and are in favour of the objectives of the
Issues relating to site planning and
infrastructure were discussed. Update on the progress with regards to block
production, meeting with official bodies and others related was shared with
the group. We all agreed that sustainability will be a very strong emphasis
of the project. Other main features are open spaces (veranda, terrace),
participants input with the finishing aspects of the house, provisions for
some sound-proofing, adapted to the local climate conditions, collaboration,
cofinancing and co-housing (sharing of common facilities).
The objectives of Realization are:
• answering the urgent needs of housing in Auroville
• overcoming the sense of possession regarding houses
• offering an experience of collaboration at every stage
• creating an intercultural and multilingual space based on
the spirit of human unity
• building and living in a sustainable and ecofriendly way
• contributing actively to the building of Auroville as a
conscious community and a city of an unending education
The meeting ended with tea and
biscuits and in the atmosphere of the dream that Auroville will become “ the
city the Earth needs”. In the meantime the production of stabilized earth
bricks goes on, every helping hand is welcome! We are also looking for
volunteers to assist in a variety of areas including accounts, web-designing
and database development.
Please Contact: Chloe at: firstname.lastname@example.org
2623064 (at the Earth Institute); Martin at:
email@example.com or at 9486144076
News & Notes Top
Number 221 - 08 December 2007
A weekly bulletin for residents of Auroville
Welcome a new community!
There is a new community in Auroville
called Realization. It is not on the map yet, but already exists in its
community members, bricks, designed houses, common pot etc. It will be
located in the residential zone, near Vikas and Creativity. It will provide
homes to 150-250 inhabitants...
Mother said: “Build Matrimandir, the
sooner it is finished the better it is for all!” Today Matrimandir is
nearly finished, and I sense it is time for the community, the city to grow.
I heard so many times: “Auroville will be the city of 50.000 residents!” But
are we ready for it? Are we ready to share our roads, space, food, homes,
schools, economy and time with all the newcomers? Will we be able to keep
the unity of Auroville at least on the same level as it exists today, or can
we make it even stronger? Or will we become only a big group of individuals?
How can we harmonize the individual and collective needs? How can we live,
work and grow together in the “progressive harmony”? The most important
thing we can do, is to accept the changes and participate in it. Open our
heart and confirm: “Yes, this must be done! The city must grow!” But, how?
Not only in the number of residents and houses, but also in the
consciousness. The Realization Community is one big step, an important
experiment towards this growing. It will give home to 150-250 residents (!),
which means it will become the biggest community in Auroville! How can we
become a unity, a community? First, we have to create unity among ourselves.
To achieve this we decided to work together and we believe that the
collective work will establish the community step by step, day by day and
brick by brick. But how can we create unity with our neighbors, brother and
sister communities, and with Auroville as a whole? This is a great
challenge, and I call all residents of Auroville to support us in this
process. When we were voting for the community name I heard from people:
“Realization is a good name, we need this name; we need its strength!” This
name got the most votes, but the second chosen name was Harmony, and the
third was Sangha Yukta (Sanskrit word for collaboration) and both got a lot
of votes, too. I know we can combine these forces, and with YOUR
Collaboration we will realize the community in Harmony. ...to achieve the
lowest cost, future residents participate in collective work together with
Aurovilians, Newcomers, Volunteer Guests and as few paid workers as
manageable for the success of the project. Simple, practical yet aesthetical
and cost effective structures will be constructed using locally available
materials like earth, clay, wood, coconut and bamboo. The community will use
eco-friendly technologies: compost toilet, solar energy system, ecological
waste-water treatment etc. The houses will be situated in clusters, where
8-20 people will live together. While some cluster members will share common
facilities like kitchen, dining space, covered terrace and inner garden,
other common facilities like parking space, laundry space and community hall
will be shared within the whole community. In the first phase, 40 homes will
be built, and construction will start soon.
Bogi (Realization Community member)