After NGT order, houses razed at Auroville for ring road work
The demolition comes after the National Green Tribunal (NGT), southern zone, Chennai passed an order on April 28, allowing the Auroville Foundation to complete the project with several conditions.
The Auroville Foundation on Monday night demolished two houses in the ‘Center Field’ in Tamil Nadu’s Villupuram district to make way for the contested ring road project, called the Crown Road. Residents are opposing the action of the authorities, which resumed on Tuesday morning.
The incident comes after the National Green Tribunal (NGT), southern zone, Chennai passed an order on April 28, allowing the Auroville Foundation to complete the project with several conditions. The conditions include following recommendations of the joint committee constituted by the NGT which will look into tree cover and study water bodies along the project’s area.
The NGT has directed the joint committee to submit a report within 2 months. “Till that exercise is completed, the 1st Respondent (Auroville Foundation) is directed not to cut any further trees from the property,” the NGT’s order said. “The 1st respondent is at liberty to undertake the Crown Road work in the remaining stretches where there are no trees. The 1st respondent is also at liberty to take action against unauthorised occupations, if any, strictly in accordance with the law in force,” the NGT order said.
The order is related to the residents taking the Auroville Foundation to court in December contending that a large number of trees were being cut for the Crown Road in the Auroville forest area affecting its biological diversity and eco-sensitiveness.
Based on the above order, a spokesperson for the Auroville Foundation told HT that they demolished unauthorised houses, adding that there is a special focus on completing the project during the 150th birth anniversary year of Sri Aurobindo (an event for which the Centre is also preparing).
“As per the Auroville Universal Township Perspective Plan 2025, the Crown Road construction is being implemented since 2009 and has picked up pace for completion in 2021,” said the Foundation’s statement.
“In the early years, permission was given from the Town Development Council (TDC) of Auroville for some temporary constructions. All such structures will have to give way to permanent construction as per the Master Plan. The house in which Mita Radhakrishnan and Tapas Desrousseaux, (residents of Auroville) lived was one of such dwelling houses. A part of this house had been extended and made permanent with our permission. To enable the construction of the Crown Road this house needed to be demolished. For that purpose, several discussions were held among the Auroville Foundation, the Auroville Working groups and the concerned residents. A solution was found and the concerned residents have been given a new residence which is twice the size of their previous house. It is therefore possible to demolish this house to enable the manifestation of the Crown Road.”
Mita and Tapas had moved out a few months back knowing that house would be demolished. The residents meanwhile say that the authorities acted in a manner to punish them because they cannot touch trees so they demolished a house built around a tree. “About 100 Aurovilians silently watched the entire operation with a lot of pain and tears. JCB, without even a number plate, arrived after working hours at 6pm without any prior notice to neighbouring residents,” activist Kundhavi (to get full name) told HT. “They started mercilessly breaking the house in an unconscious way. If done properly a lot of valuable material could have been upcycled in the construction of another house. When people asked for a work order, no response was given by the staff of the office of the Secretary of Auroville Foundation.”
The Crown Road project is 4.4 km long for which trees under the definition of “Deemed Forest” and Auroville’s Youth Centre which is near the iconic Matrimandir have to go. When the Foundation used JCBs to clear these areas last December, the residents had protested and visuals showed police and villagers nearby being forceful on them. So a few residents approached the court and last December the NGT granted them temporary relief when it was ordered that no more trees can be cut.
Under The Mother’s direct guidance a plan for the Auroville Township plan was prepared, known as the Galaxy Plan. It was presented along with the Charter of Auroville during the inauguration of Auroville on February 28, 1968. Residents of Auroville formulated a Master Plan in 1999 based on the Galaxy Plan, which was unanimously approved by the Residents Assembly and sent to the Governing Board for approval.
The Governing Board referred the plan to the Town and Country Planning Organisation of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (GoI) for a review which resulted in the Auroville Universal Township Master Plan (perspective 2025), which was approved by the Governing Board and the Ministry of HRD in April 2001 and was notified in part 3 of the Gazette of India on August 16, 2010.