Sauro, at Auroville's Future, talks about
the importance of Auroville's external relationships
From a development perspective, there are
four principal levels on which we interact with the outside world.
Firstly, at the level of the bio-region there is presently a movement
- together with other groups - to get it recognised by UNESCO
as biosphere reserve under the Man and Biosphere (MAB) programme.
We are also trying to be more involved in the process of planning
the development of the bio-region and our neighbouring villages
through various schemes.
Secondly, there is our Urban Outreach programme, whereby we are
building relationships with other Indian cities. The obvious example
is Pondicherry. When the city authorities in Pondy got to hear
of Auroville's relationship with the European Union [EU], they
asked if we could help them to develop some kind of link. We have
been delighted to be able to work with them. One tangible result
will be the "model street" renovation of Vasyal Street
in the Tamil quarter which is going to start soon. It was partly
achieved through partnership funding from Brussels.
Thirdly, there is our own networking with the EU, other multilateral
agencies and European cities. The Asia Urbs programme was extremely
successful. Of course, part of the funding for the Town Hall itself
derived from that project. We are continuing to develop this relationship.
Recently, we received literally a busload of European Ambassadors
here in Auroville! They were very curious to see Auroville, and
discover how and why such a small place could attract so many
funds and projects from Europe. It is worth mentioning that -
in addition to Asia-Urbs, - the EU has co-funded other projects
in the areas of forestry and village education. This is thanks
especially to the efforts of AVI-UK.
Fourthly, we are starting to develop relationships with other
cities within Asia. This is just at the beginning stages, and
I do not want to say too much about it. But again, it will form
an important part of being able to share our knowledge, experience
and existing partnerships with others for their benefit.
This is extremely important. It is very easy for the EU and others
to look at us and say 'How come we are giving so much money and
emphasis to this little place in Tamil Nadu, when there are so
many other things that need to be done in the world?' And they
have a very good point. So it is important to stress always that
Auroville is not just devouring funds for itself. We must be able
to show that we are giving back to the region and to India, that
benefit and assistance which Auroville receives from outside is
being shared. And most of all, that we do not grow in competition
with others. What is good for us must demonstrably be good for
others outside - and vice versa. This is another reason why our
bio-region and Urban Outreach efforts are so vital. It is important
that Auroville is perceived as being there to give also, and not
only to receive.
I think especially of the young people that come from other cities
in India to work with us. And on our own home-turf there is the
Electricians' Training Programme run by the Electrical Service.
This came about as part of the Asia-Urbs project. We were able
to fund a two-year training programme in the basics of becoming
an electrician. There were places for fifteen people, all of whom
were local young men. They got the practical experience, plus
the beginnings of a qualification. It was very successful! This
is the best kind of application for funds, because it really helps
people in a practical way. I very much hope that the programme
will be able to continue, even though the Asia Urbs component
has now ceased.
Our immediate target is to raise funds for Auroville's infrastructure.
We are exploring with USAID how they can give us assistance to
improve our power supply. We are negotiating with an Italian agency
to provide support for projects in the area of waste management
in collaboration with the Eco-Service. Back here, we are making
preparations for our own reference-library on the third floor
of the Town Hall. It will contain maybe a thousand new books on
urban development, planning, infrastructure and so forth. The
new web-site is being finished (go to www.auroville.com, and click
on the Master Plan link); we are preparing to take over the hosting
of the Asia Urbs web-database.
And, of course, we are always working on our relationships to
the outside world! What we learn, who we know, how we work - all
these can help other towns and cities to develop their own relationships.