Devastation of Auroville by Cyclone Thane – Update
As many individuals world-wide have expressed profound concern over the cyclone-caused havoc that occurred in Auroville and its bio-region on December 30th, we plan to keep you updated on these pages on our struggle to emerge from the countless broken trees, torn-off branches and other debris that descended upon the city that day.
Considering the enormity of the devastation, which has been much worse than anything seen in the area during the past 40 years, we will need all the help we can, and directly appeal to you to please share with us the restoration of this extraordinary city.
The overall impression of a semi-destroyed and flattened landscape remains, with hot sunlight now streaming in where previously there were shaded stretches of forest, but the roads are now open everywhere; communities are hard at work, often with newly purchased chain saws, cutting the fallen trees and bringing down large branches for eventual sale as timber; AV Electrical Service staff are working flat out in collaboration with the TNEB to clear the routes for cabling to be re-erected as soon as the needed poles can be acquired and installed; the AV Water Service is using mobile generator sets all day and well into the night to pump water for Auroville and village tanks; etc. However, the landscape which Auroville has been at great pains to establish over the last 40 years has been so disfigured and mutilated that it will probably take years to fully restore it to its previous form.
Damage in the villages has been considerably less. Auroville immediately offered its help with relief operations through the Joint Development Council of Auroville and the villages. Outreach units, such as Auroville Village Action Group deployed its trained staff and local members to do a damage assessment in the villages. The villagers have been assured compensation by the Government for housing, loss of fruit-trees and lost of cultivated cropland. Government officials are systematically visiting each affected area assessing and responding to specific needs. A total amount of Rs. 15 billion has been allocated by the Government for relief and rehabilitation in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry.
Initial assessments of the damage suggest that immediate needs are for approximately US $ 1 million for Auroville alone (long term needs will probably be much higher), and much more of course to meet reconstruction needs in the surrounding villages and further afield, which may be dealt with by local government bodies.
Electricity in detail
Lack of electricity, which was cut at the first sign of the cyclone approaching, is right now one of the major problems faced. Without current, not only has domestic life been badly affected (no refrigeration, cooking appliances, lighting, etc), and the work of various business units hindered, but it has been impossible to pump the water needed to fill communal and house tanks.
Regarding this problem i.e. overall electricity supply, the situation is as follows. All service connections in Auroville and the villages in the region have been without power since the cyclone struck, with a total of 42 distribution transformers affected. Some 62 poles for HT lines and 96 poles for LT lines have to be replaced. Additionally, a substantial quantity of line materials (cross arms, insulators, stay wires etc.) are required. AV Electrical Service is on the job in close coordination with TNEB, and visits have been made to senior management of TNEB for allocation of the required poles. (Some 5,000 poles in total were destroyed by the cyclone, but only around 1,000 were in stock at the time. This has seriously compounded the problem of restoring current to most areas.) Meanwhile, Auroville is deeply grateful to Gammon India and Suzlon Energy, who have been kind enough to lend free of charge JCBs, tipper lorries and cranes to help the teams working in the field.
At the same time as the above, Auroville’ Sunlit Future has installed a total of 15 kW of temporary solar PV systems with unused panels at the homes of people who need care. Also solar mobile telephone and laptop charging stations have been commissioned at Ilaignarkal School, Alankuppam (Arul’s Electrical shop), Yoga Travels and Abri.
It is difficult to estimate when TNEB electricity will come back to all parts of Auroville and the village areas. There are 1,300 TNEB service connections in Auroville alone, and they will be reconnected in groups as and when the related LT overhead line infrastructure is restored, starting with the Kottakarai-Centre-Visitors Centre area. Next will be the Auroshilpam-CSR area, the Aurogreen-Dana area, the Utility-Djaima-Last School area, and finally the Samasti-Abri-Certitude area. Activation to each area will of course also include the village connections.
Auroville volunteers, teams from Sunlit Future and Auroville Road Service and many others are supporting these efforts, which will benefit not only Auroville but also the whole region, as the 22KV HT lines are common to both.
Thank you for caring, we’ll be back soon!