Purchased in 1964, the land that is now Hermitage was one of the first plots acquired for Auroville. Primarily canyon land, its starkly beautiful landscape is now home to a rich variety of wildlife.
Acreage: 74 | Steward: Bernd and Andreanne
Hermitage’s main areas of focus are soil and water conservation, reforestation, preservation of biodiversity, wetland creation and protection, creation of a protected area for wildlife, and protection of endangered species. In the area of water conservation, they have completed 26 earth check-dams with a cumulative length of more than 800 meters and an average height of 6 meters. Their combined water holding capacity totals several hundred thousand cubic meters; an area of approximately 40 acres underwater when in full capacity.
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, both flora and fauna. Ideally, the area could become a protected bird and wildlife sanctuary.