Purchased in 1964, the land that is now Hermitage was one of the first parcels acquired for Auroville. It is situated about 7.5 km southwest of the center of Auroville in the tail of the Auroville “galaxy” and consists of approximately 74 acres, primarily canyon land: a starkly beautiful landscape now home to a rich variety of wildlife.
When I became steward of this land in 1989 it was home to hardly any wildlife for there was hardly any grass cover (not to speak of other flora) to be seen. We started by digging a deep well, and bunding the area, a herculean task on such a large, hilly tract. After that came planting: to date we have put in more than a one hundred thousand trees as well as countless shrubs and grasses.
In 1990, a time when all such work was still done by hand in rural India, we started constructing earth dams in the canyons for rain water catchment. Initially we worked only on Hermitage land, but subsequently, I was approached by the presidents of the Thiruchitambalam and Puthurai Panchayats (local governing bodies) and asked to extend the work to public lands under their jurisdiction. As of today, we have completed 19 earth dams with a cumulative length of approximately 800 meters and an average height of 6 meters. Their combined water holding capacity totals several hundred thousand cubic meters.
In the future, with the support of the Panchayats and the surrounding villages, I hope to create a chain of interconnected water bodies on an area of more than 500 acres which will attract a still richer and more diverse wildlife mix, both flora and fauna. Ideally, the area could become a protected bird and wildlife sanctuary.
Our main activities are:
· soil and water conservation
· preservation of bio diversity
· wetland creation and protection
· creation of a protected area for wild life
· protection of endangered species
For more details you can contact Bernd and/or Agnes