The AV Cyclone Relief Team is now meeting three times a week to handle the continuing crisis, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 3.30pm in the Town Hall. At its recent meetings some of the points covered were as follows.
* The danger of fires in forested areas has become a major topic, especially now that the torn-off twigs, leaves and small branches are drying out. In fact there have already been several small fires in Auroville that have, fortunately, been quickly contained and put out, and one fire at the Pondicherry airport. Fire prevention and control of any fire spotted is being taken up as a major issue, including the possibility of arranging for a fire vehicle with water tank to be posted at the site of the new AV Transport building near Certitude corner. In parallel, a check is to be made on fire safety equipment and needs of all AV public buildings.
* In a further step to reduce forest fire risk, the Forest Group and Land Resource Management (LRM) have been asked for suggestions about how to deal with the hundreds of tons of small branches littered all over AV. Communities will be asked to collect these together at a few strategic places away from buildings and other fire-risk places in their community. One possibility might be to arrange a contract with outsider(s) to go round and buy all these piles of small branches for ongoing sale as firewood or biomass material, as there is too much to be coped with by the two compost-making shredders available in Auroville.
* Timber likewise is to be stockpiled in various places for later collection by LRM or others. At present it is mainly stored at Matrimandir and the LRM yard near Abri. Part of the reason for this, apart from the logistics of trying to collect from all over AV, is that tractor-trailers are presently still being hired out at Rs.2000 to 2500 per day, a price which is so high it would seriously eat into the profitability of any timber transported. As also the villages are using tractors, there are just not enough to go around. There is an urgent need for the funds for Auroville to purchase at least 3 tractors. These would be used for Cyclone Response work until there is no longer the need, and then would be handed over to various Auroville service units and/or farms.
* Electricity restoration work is progressing steadily, but no date can be given yet for restoration of current to the remaining areas. Most poles required have been received, and TNEB top brass are clearly giving priority to the area.
* Funding amounting to INR 50 lakhs has already come in from individuals, institutions and business units, with AVI centres playing an important role. However, with assessments gradually becoming clearer, it becomes evident that there is a RS 2.5 corer (minimum!) deficit just for the basic relief phase alone, not to speak of the rehabilitation phase... There has been a lot of effort to approach various government agencies for financial relief, including by Dr.Karan Singh, as chairman of the Governing Board, but so far no funds have come from these sources.
* There will be a meeting of the Finance Committee of the Governing Board in AV on Jan 23rd with cyclone relief as one of the main topics.
* Jan 21st the IG of Police will be visiting AV for a meeting at the Foundation offices, concerning security issues.
On another front, it may be of interest to know that a class in safe chainsaw usage was held near the Town Hall entrance on Wednesday, Jan 11th, for the benefit of new owners and inexperienced users, conducted by AV's professional tree surgeon Juan. This workshop was very necessary, as many chainsaws have been purchased in Auroville in the wake of the cyclone from shops which gave minimal guidance in how to use them safely. It was attended by about 30 Aurovilians and workers.