The Auroville Forest and the greenbelt


“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people. ”

– Franklin D. Roosevelt

It is commonly known that trees are good for the environment. Carbon dioxide is not good for the health of the planet, neither for humans and animals nor for nature. Trees help the levels of carbon dioxide to not rise as much as it would without them. Also, without forests the deserts would grow and farming would face some serious problems due to water scarcity in the soil. Furthermore, humans and animals need to drink to survive. These are just some of the benefits of forests, plants and trees.

The place where Auroville is situated was a desert and the Indians that lived in this area (Tamil Nadu) did not see a potential in the land or were too poor to make the necessary changes. The founder of Auroville, the Mother, wanted a place close to Pondicherry and since the land was not used by the villagers in the surrounding area and the owners were willing to sell the land, the location was chosen for the community that goes by the name Auroville. For people to be able to live there they needed water and shelter. So a forest was planted to facilitate the needs of the people. According to Auroville Green Practices there is a legend called the tale of Kaluvelli Siddha that predicted that “in a distant future people from far away would come to transform the cursed wasteland into a beautiful green area.” Whether this is a tale of Auroville is impossible to know.

According to Auroville Green Practices the first Aurovillians wanted to plant a forest that could withstand wind and weather and build the foundation of a long-lasting forest. It was morally supported by UNESCO and in the end it was one of the earliest large-scale forest restoration works in the world. The focus was to provide a bio-diversity but at first the indigenous species (TDEF) was not suited for the area so the Aurovillians had to plant species that could provide cover, build up the soil and improve the climate (for example, the area suffered from dust storms) so all the species that were chosen in the beginning were trees and vegetation that could stand hard conditions. When the conditions improved, the Aurovillians planted indigenous trees and plants.

Today, more than 3 million trees have been planted and as many as 185 of these species are indigenous. Auroville has the largest archive of TDEF in the bio-region and more indigenous species are added every year.

Today, the forest or the green belt are used as a shelter and a shade but the trees and the plants are also used to make medicine and old traditions are re-born. Other places, besides Auroville, has taken advantage of the supply the Aurovillians has built up. For example, Chennai has had help from organizations in Auroville to plant trees in the city.

Last year there was a cyclone that hit the south of India. Many trees fell down, forests were damaged, many buildings were destroyed, and the roads were blocked. The amazing part was that the trees still standing were the indigenous species, while the trees that were not originally in the Tamil Nadu area were the ones that fell. This only proves that you should not tamper with nature since nature knows best.

By Martina Mattsson, Linnaeus University

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