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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Auroville is now a desirable and potentially profitable address

Home > Journals & Media > Journals > Auroville Today > June-July 2007 Current issue Archive copies Auroville Experience Facing a land crisis - Alan In April, the Land Consolidation Committee made a radical proposal to secure the remaining land in the city area. In their words, “We have to act. Now.”
On a hot afternoon in June, 1999, Guy Ryckaert stood in the amphitheatre and told his fellow Aurovilians that ‘the house is on fire'. He was referring to the fact that a large plot of land in the Green Belt had recently been bought by a developer who was planning to build a housing estate (called ‘ Peaceful City ') upon it. Today, in spite of plans by the new Secretary to speed up securing land in the city and to deal with a specific development in the greenbelt (see Auroville Today, January, 2007), the situation is grimmer still. For while the Peaceful City site was eventually bought by Auroville, other large plots in the same area remain in private ownership, and a women's college is being constructed in the middle of the Green Belt east of the city area.
The present situation
It was against this background that the LCC called for a general meeting of Auroville residents to present a radical proposal. They began by laying out the present situation. Today, Auroville holds 955 acres in the city area: 196 acres still need to be acquired. In the greenbelt Auroville holds about 1,000 acres and needs to acquire another 2,000 acres to consolidate the whole area. For the past thirty years the tendency has been to purchase land in the city and greenbelt areas whenever it became available. However, the price of land has now skyrocketed all over India – over the past three months alone it has doubled in value in our area.
This has a number of implications. First and most obviously, it will cost much more money to secure all the land in the city and greenbelt areas, money which Auroville does not have.
Secondly, many landowners no longer want to sell because, given its swift rise in value, land is a superb investment. The only people who want to sell, explained the LCC, are those who need the money desperately, and these are being approached by private parties who, in spite of the grossly inflated prices, are actively looking to purchase land in the area covered by Auroville's Master Plan. For Auroville is now a desirable and potentially profitable address. “This means,” said LCC member Paul Blanchflower, “that if we do not act fast there could be hotels, private houses etc. in the city and the greenbelt. Without government protection, outsiders will do whatever they want to do with the land. And this is the endgame. Within six months to one year it will all be over.”

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