Udumbu Forest

The Need to Create Ecological Corridors that Serve Both Humans and Wildlife

Udumbu is the Tamil (local language) word for the Bengal monitor lizard (Veranus bengalensis). Udumbu was started in 2000 on a land about eleven acres in size. There are two families currently living there and working in Auroville. The forest was planted in a grid and studies were undertaken as to how composting and watering affected the survival and growth of the trees. 

Acreage: 11 acres | Steward: Jessamijn

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The study confirmed that watering the trees was instrumental in ensuring survival during dry summer periods. But most of the trees planted were native evergreen trees and were planted primarily in the full sun, which meant that evaporation rates were higher and the trees struggled in the full sun. Nowadays we understand that these evergreen trees require shade (a pioneer canopy) and that when they are planted in appropriate conditions, the need to water these trees is drastically reduced.

Today, there is a large amount of regeneration of the evergreen species that were first planted in Udumbu 20 years ago. These are Diospyros ebenum, Tricalysia sphaerocarpa, Walsura trifoliolata, Atalantia monophylla, and Ixora arborea. This is fascinating to observe and a real bank of genetic diversity. Even though this is a relatively newer forest in Auroville, because of the better soil quality in Udumbu and the planting of a sufficient amount of Diospyros ebenum trees (which are dioecious) this species has been able to regenerate profusely, more than in most other Auroville forests. Diospyros ebenum is a key species of the forest that used to cover South India, and is very rare today.


One of the biggest challenges is the development of neighboring plots, as there are more and more farmhouses being built, and plots are being fenced, disabling wild animals from moving around freely. Udumbu faces poaching, even inside their small forest they have found traps to catch monitor lizards. Occasionally there is also a theft of bamboo. Udumbu is being visited by many more wild boar than earlier, so it is understandable that people are putting up fences, but it stops all other animals from moving around as well. There used to be a resident deer for a while, but the forest land is too fragmented for a viable population.


A dream aspiration would be to work with local landowners to create ecological corridors that serve both humans and wildlife. How this can be done in today's context where land use is highly political, remains a big question.