The sight of trees and vegetation cover, the shaded cycle and walking paths, the tranquil wind even in the peak of summer, the various shades of green, flowers, fragrance, the aesthetics of the whole surrounding that one takes for granted in Auroville has been the result of one of the earliest large-scale forest restoration works in the world.
Forest restoration was not just a matter of aesthetics but a necessity for Auroville, the only UNESCO-ratified international township, when it was initiated >40years back in a thoroughly degraded and denuded land. The land was mostly devoid of vegetation, scarred with eroded ravines, frequented by dust storms, and unobstructed torrential rains that washed away enough soil to turn the coastal water red. Ground breaking ecological restoration work through afforestation and watershed management has transformed that desert-like area to a living landscape supporting people along with numerous flora, and fauna. It encouraged biodiversity to return by providing them a suitable habitat, and a rare refuge as wooded areas diminished in the surrounding areas over time.
Initially the denuded landscape could not support indigenous vegetations. To establish vegetation cover, build up soil organic matter, and improve the microclimate by reducing the dust storms Aurovillians planted carefully chosen combination of exotic species that could sustain the harsh conditions. However, the plan was already in place to slowly introduce indigenous tropical dry evergreen forest (TDEF) species when the conditions improve. TDEF or Eastern Deccan Forest that once existed along the Coromandel Coast now only exists in fragmented patches of sacred groves which are also dwindling.
In Auroville, within a decade as the exotic trees grew providing a source of fuel for the surrounding villages and wood for furniture, TDEF seeds were carefully collected from the sacred groves, tended in nursery at Auroville, and were slowly phased in. Forest group has planted more than 3 million trees that included more than 150,000 individuals belonging to 185 TDEF species. More TDEF species continued to be phased in every year, making Auroville the largest living repository of these species in the bio-region. Reforestation effort has extended to the bio-region and beyond. Post Tsunami, a unique effort was undertaken to initiate re-establishment of a green forest line along the coast in three villages - initially with a mix of TDEF, indigenous, and exotic species. The plantation that one day is deemed to be a forest continues to flourish.