I live in Puducherry, or Pondicherry or even shortly as Pondy as it used to be known – and still of course- a small or rather tiny Union Territory in the southern part of India. Having a series of colonial successions like the Dutch, the French and the British in between, Pondicherry still has a metropolitan culture having a true mix of people from all parts of India and abroad. It is also the place of Sri Aurobindo, The Mother, the Aurobindo Ashram and of course, the Auroville, the international city of peace where people of several countries live as communities. Auroville is a beautiful experiment a totally barren stretch of land has been converted into a beautiful green space with several forests, organic farms & gardens, production units, renewable energy options including the solar kitchen, organic outlets, restaurants, model schools and all that is needed to be a self-sustained community
Now coming to my topic of the day, Pondy is really graceful and beautiful town that has a true historic past starting from maybe the 2nd century BC where a small town called Arikamedu had excellent maritime trade connections including the Romans. Pondy also has several small towns – for example, Bahour, which was at the peak of its civilization about 1200 years ago. The first temple constructed by the Paranthaka Chozha is at Bahour and it still stands strong and tall with stone inscriptions telling the excellent governance systems and water management systems of that time.
Fortunately, the water system is still intact and I will write about it later. Unfortunately, due to unplanned, irrational, shortsighted planning, Pondy is losing its shine at a faster pace. Totally berserk town and country planning processes have fast deteriorated the green spaces of this small territory.
Houses, houses everywhere and not many trees or shade at all. This is affecting the birds very much and they cuddle to whichever little spaces that is available. One such space is the Botanical Gardens of Pondy where the film “Life of Pi” was shot. With exploding migratory population, the spaces are shrinking very fast and the bird population is the worst affected.
How can one increase the green spaces? Puducherry had around 1000 water ponds to its credit, but a study done by the government of Puducherry 10 years ago, says that the water ponds have reduced to 600 in number. But now, we would be lucky if we even have half of it, I suppose. Why is this happening? The negligence of the government coupled with the greed of the politicians to illegally appropriate them and distribute them as free house sites to gain political mileage for vote banks!!.
So is there any hope? Yes, there seems to be. Currently, a community initiative under several NGOs and peoples collectives are urging the government to declare the wetlands of Pondicherry and even to try to reclaim the lost water and green spaces. Let us hope it will work !!!. After all, it is hope that keeps us driving… Isn’t it?