International Advisory Council
Present: Mark Tully, Doudou Diene, Julian Lines
Guests: Aster Patel, Ameeta Mehra
Reflecting the international nature of the project, Auroville has an International Advisory Council made up of eminent people from several nations who are available to give advice to Auroville and its Governing Board. The Council normally meets once or twice a year in Auroville.
Minutes of the 22nd Meeting of Auroville’s
Protection of the Green Belt
Private developments within the Master Plan of Auroville by outside and foreign speculators with “bon amis” have grave consequences for Auroville. Aggressive burning and cutting of the forest to clear space for large projects such as are now underway across from the Dana community are serious threats. We support the suggestion that legal advice is obtained to discover whether to immediately file a PIL challenging the devolopment while other strategies are pursued.
The IAC also urges Auroville to immediately make a presentation to the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and other high level State Officials requesting them to enforce current law and to enact a stay against this reckless development.
The creation of an Auroville Planning Authority and a bioregional development plan could help anticipate pressures on the community and mitigate their effects.
We welcome the new Council and share their concern about lack of housing and its impact on the Entry process. We hope it will be possible to reopen the Entry process very soon. Lack of housing is an obstacle especially to the youth and over 100 Aurovilians with inadequate facilities.
We support the need to develop a constructive relationship with all Auroville’s neighbors and through greater density of housing promote an interactive social life with an urban feeling.
When excavation uncovers archeological sites, preservation and respect for local heritage is in order. Sensitive measures can respect these excavations while moving forward towards adequate housing in the Residential Zone. The care with which Auroville handles such issues will affect Auroville’s inclusion in UNESCO’s World Heritage list. The IAC feels that there will not be a “downside” to this important status.
There remains a conflict of principle between the Charter’s goal of no private ownership and the remaining sense of proprietorship of houses and land among some Aurovilians. Sacrifices were made to plant trees and build homes, but every effort should be made to support the policy of one house / one family and the offering of land for exchange in the service of achieving the integrity and continuity of the city.
We would also like to draw the attention of the community to the class and ethical issues of ostentatious houses and suggest houses be limited to the size necessary for meeting basic needs.
The problems arising from the prolonged extension of the term of the Working Committee speaks to the urgent need to revise the selection process so that it commands the confidence of the community at large and encourages their widespread participation.
Criteria for selection of working groups should include diversity of gender and experience in order to insure a representative balance.
The staggering of the terms of office and extension of length of time in office should give stability and continuity to the Working Committee and other governing groups.
Auroville must be sure they can absorb, administer and make proper use of new funding opportunities. Care must be taken to mix revenue streams in order not to become overdependent on Government grants. Exploration of the corporate sector and legacies and trusts should also be followed to create a balanced funding mix.
There is a need to add education to the request for funding. An interministerial committee may be more of an impediment, but should be carefully explored. The possibility of being recognized as a “Solar City” and “Center of Excellence” with long term funding should be pursued.
We again recognize the need for bringing young people with relevant skills to contribute to Auroville. We hope that outreach to other regions will diversify participation. We encourage the developed countries to fund participation from developing countries. The UNESCO Fellowship Program could be invited to partipate as well. We support the effort to get HRD Ministry to recognize the programs and curriculum in order to facilitate the recognition of educational visas for participants.
We were impressed with the current new building, the Sri Aurobindo World Center for Human Unity, and plans to beautify the Bharat Nivas complex with a plaza integrating the abandoned buildings.
We encourage the team to promote Bharat Nivas and host a series of programs on India and the World, India and Diversity, Intercultural Issues and the like.
The presentation showed a great deal of important work being done to compost and reduce the waste stream.
Polluting smoke from the mismanagement of the Pondicherry Municipal Waste creates a serious health hazard to everyone in the vicinity. Young Auroville families with children have to consider leaving the community rather than risk long term health consequences. This is a profound challenge to Auroville’s future. Existing laws must be enforced and the responsible parties must be held accountable. The IAC supports the recommendation to send letters to the relevant authorities and even insist they come for an onsite visit to experience the damage firsthand.
Waste is not only a technical issue but has profound social, cultural and spiritual dimension and should be handled in such a way that involves further education and close collaboration with the local villages. More can and should be done about local burning as well as the Pondicherry Garbage Dump. Workers at the dump must be informed about health concerns and Auroville should do what they can to protect them from the polluted air.
We support the call for the Chairman to write to the Chief Minister of Pondicherry requesting the relocation of the dump, the turning of the waste and eventual source separation at the doorstep.
We hope Lavkamad can respond to the changing market and build on his experience providing vocational training to the local population. His efforts to create a more viable program to bring necessary skill sets to the next generation of students in and around Auroville is relevant. The need of management skills for medium and small businesses and distance learning has emerged as important niches. His goal to participate in the 5 year funding plan is a worthy one.
The trend towards threats and bullying by local groups against Auroville is dangerous and must be shown to be counterproductive. Building on local relationships, those responsible must be identified and given constructive methods of stating their needs. Auroville must not be politicized and attempts to turn the community into a political issue must be resisted. Cooperation from Chennai and local police should be cultivated but not relied upon as a final answer. The creation of a joint Auroville and local leader consultative forum can be a useful tool for regular communication which anticipates and defuses problems.
Rewriting the Amendments to the Rules of the Foundation
The creation of a subcommittee to draw up these rules is a valid and necessary strategy to address the need for a stable and effective relationship with the Foundation. Timely response and sound legal advice are paramount.
The members of the IAC believe it is critical to spend a longer time in Auroville for site visits, health and recreation. The community is becoming more complex and multi-faceted and for us to have varied personal interactions is instructive and often inspiring. We very much enjoyed our visit to the new Library where Mark Tully signed copies of his books. We also visited the development opposite Dana, Upasana and Colors of Nature.
We also want to recognize the work of Joss Brooks and his appointment to SEDAB along with Satprem in an enterprise development scheme so that more and more Auroville might contribute on a policy level to India.
We hope that a roster of skills of Aurovilians, AVI and friends of Auroville could be developed and tapped for Auroville’s progress.
Finally we want to express our appreciation for the current Working Committee. They have been excellent hosts, consultants and advocates and we have found them dedicated and effective in their work.
Mark TULLY Doudou DIENE Julian LINES
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