A model village opens its doors
The first phase of
Sangamam, a model village situated near Utility, was declared open
for habitation on Tamil New Year, April 14th.
The opening of the
first phase of the Sangamam model village on Tamil New Year was a
happy occasion. The first inhabitants, four couples with their
children and one bachelor, were given the keys to their brand new
accommodation in an atmosphere of joy and laughter.
Sangamam marks the
beginning of the materialisation of a vision of The Mother to
create housing for those who work for Auroville. In one of her
early sketches Mother had indicated that there would be a kind of
'labourers' colony'. This concept finally evolved into Sangamam,
meaning 'confluence', a meeting place for the villagers and
Auroville. "We have envisaged Sangamam as a demonstration
centre. It shows how a village can be planned, what type of
appropriate infrastructure is suitable, and how, using low-cost
building technologies and creative eco-friendly architecture, a
village can be built," says Joseba. "Following this
strategy, it has been possible to raise the funds for the first
phase. We hope that ultimately, when the next phases of the
project have been finalised, the village can become an example for
other villages in India."
It is due to Joseba's
and his partner Anandi's untiring efforts that the project got its
initial funding. They secured a donation of US $61,000 from the
government of Navarra, Spain, for the first phase of the project
and acted as its project managers. Auroville contributed by making
two hectares of its land available next to Utility. "The
complete project will comprise 48 houses, dormitory and guesthouse
facilities, a community centre, a 3-chamber water tank, a waste
water treatment system and an extensive infrastructure including
two bridges over the canyon and a causeway," says Joseba.
"In the first phase we have created six houses, the community
building, and all of the infrastructure. I have high hopes that
we'll able to manifest the entire project within a few
Architect Anupama and
builder Dhanapal have been responsible for the design and
construction. The house design is simple. Alternative technologies
such as rammed earth techniques have been used as much as
possible. As is the standard in Tamil Nadu, the houses are small
(the living and cooking area is about 30 sqm) with bathroom access
from the outside. The cost amounts to slightly less than Rs 2
lakhs (US$ 4,200) per house, cheap if one takes the quality of the
finishing into account. The community centre consists of a large
meeting cum television room and other common spaces.
"The water tank
is unique," explains Josebas. "It consists of three
chambers: the top one is for potable water, the second one for
recycled water and the third for harvested water. Recycled and
harvested water will be used for flushing toilets and gardening.
The wastewater plant is another prototype. The Indian Central
Pollution Control Board has donated the money for this research
plant, and also pays for 2 engineers to supervise its operation
for 2 years."
responsible for the social aspects of Sangamam. All residents are
selected by Auroville and have to contribute ten percent of their
salaries as a monthly rent, which will be used for the maintenance
of the village facilities and infrastructure. Residents
participate in educative programs to encourage the understanding
of the value of the project, so that they are motivated to fully
participate and maintain the village. A management committee
composed of representatives of the village and representatives of
Auroville is reponsible for the overall management of the project.
The project team plans to open up the next phases of the project
to other architects. It will also invite individuals who would
like to help their employees to live in decent houses to co-fund
houses in Sangamam - they would pay 50%, and so would the Sangamam
"The project team
has cooperated very harmoniously to manifest this project,"
said a beaming Anupama at the opening ceremony. "I hope that
this atmosphere will continue here in Sangamam".