Decades of work with programs have gone into education with villages on environmental issues and in the promotion of organic farming. However, as it is all across India, farming is being abandoned, moving from subsistence to cash crops, such as cashews, and the young are moving to the cities in search of opportunity off the land. Land holders have become more short sighted, choosing whatever method is cheapest or most expedient. Many farmers now insist on using harsh chemicals in treating crops. Sewage treatment and garbage waste are also a problem, clogging the natural flow channels, silting up the surface water and holding tanks, polluting with toxins that seep into the groundwater sources.
Auroville and the nearby villages share a common future. For itself and the benefit of the villages, it is imperative that Auroville overcomes environmental pollution, toxins and saline water intrusion, provides water conservation for the bioregion, and improves food security, countering the loss of agricultural lands to development and chemical use. For now, the best recourse is to secure valuable watershed, bringing it under managed control, and the farmland that is best suited for organic farming. Such lands can thereafter serve as demonstration plots for training local farmers.
What Auroville offers to the world depends on maintaining the integrity of its integrated self-sustaining planning model. During some months, Auroville has as many as 5,000 people in resident, including visiting scholars and young volunteers. There may be another 5,000 daily visitors. Auroville has also been increasing employment of villagers, now employing over 6,000 people, making Auroville one of the largest employers in the region. Auroville does not seek to commercialize the guest experience beyond the basics of what is needed to engage them in the experience of living within a regenerative culture. It also does not seek to become the recreation area or tourist destination for urban dwellers that some speculators hope to encourage. Rather, it seeks sufficient buffer to peacefully carry on its work for humanity.
Development: The growth rate of nearby Pondicherry has been one of the highest in India. Auroville is located between Pondicherry and its airport to the south and its university campus to the north. The greenery and forests of Auroville stand in sharp contrast to the urban sprawl and therefore beckons to opportunists. Land speculators and developers catering to a growing upper middle class with disposable incomes subdivide property to sell plots and spec houses, even apartment blocks, without consideration for infrastructure such as sewage, waste management, parking, and services, such as schools. Their wells tap into the common watershed without regard to carrying capacity, impacting Auroville and villages alike.
Commercial interests also seek opportunity servicing Auroville’s guests without consideration of impact on the Auroville community, its economy, values, and codes of conduct. Leveraging Auroville’s environmental improvements and amenities, speculators and commercial interests penetrate as deeply as possible into the township, typically disregarding state building regulations or operating with the intent of using political influence to ignore or change zoning to commercial use.
Products: Auroville visitor shops sell only Auroville’s originated sustainable merchandise. Non-Aurovillian products introduced into the heart of Auroville challenge the organizing principles of a fully self–sustaining economy. Intentional misrepresentation, whether explicit or implied, negatively impacts the image of Auroville with guests who assume that these operators are sanctioned and their products represent Auroville standards.
Services: Of equal concern is the introduction of service businesses, particularly those operating at night and attracting clientele from outside the community. Auroville is peaceful, without liquor stores, bars, or nightclubs, and does not operate a police force. Except for very few exceptions over five decades, disturbances come from outside the community.