Bioregional development: aspiring to a sustainable future for all

Since its inception, Auroville has made diverse efforts in the neighbouring villages and bioregion to weave together a common aspiration for human unity through community development. The aim is to bring together all sections of society, irrespective of caste, cultural background, gender and nationality, through a participatory and integral approach.

Auroville now anchors over 50 bioregional community development initiatives in the fields of environment, education, health, social enterprise, financial inclusion, infrastructure, capacity building, leadership and cultural preservation.

Building on local wisdom

At Auroville’s start, the designated area was considered a “most backward area in need of development” by the Tamil Nadu Government. Nonetheless, the pioneering community depended heavily on the wisdom and site-specific knowledge of the local communities. It was, for example, with their help that the indigenous forest and traditional rainwater harvesting in communal tanks were revived over the years.

The Mother, founder of Auroville, was particularly attentive that the relationship between Auroville and the surrounding populations should be “a true human fraternity”. As Auroville has grown, it is in this spirit that the number and scope of projects and services shared between Auroville and its neighbours have developed. While the standard of living and range of opportunities in the villages around Auroville have certainly increased, new challenges continue to arise, and the need for collaborative bridges connecting hearts and aspirations is as important as ever.

Pitchandikulam Forest information panels, in English and Tamil

Current challenges

In recent years, the expansion of the tourism sector and rapid economic and population growth in neighbouring Pondicherry has increasingly spilled over to the areas around Auroville, causing issues related to land speculation, unplanned development, waste management, over-exploitation of water resources, destruction of the regenerated forest, traffic congestion, air pollution, and safety – all affecting the wellbeing of the entire area. Inevitably, we will all reap the bounty or consequences of how we relate to one another and to our natural world. Forging the right way forward with the entire bioregion will require strong relationships and trust.

The bridges we’ve built

Auroville’s bioregion-focused initiatives have been a co-created effort with much learning by all involved. Most of these ventures concentrate on a specific thematic area or activity. Some are pioneering models for living in rural India and the world. They are for the most part functionally autonomous projects initiated by inspired individuals who have seen a need and acted upon it.

Several of these projects are in partnerships with the Tamil Nadu government. A number are funded through donor agencies and Auroville’s generous network of international donors. A handful aim to be self-sufficient, running largely on income earned through activities intended for that purpose.

Annual sports festival in New Creation community

Community development and sustainable livelihoods

Today, more than 30% of registered Auroville residents hail from the surrounding bioregion. In addition, over 6,000 people from the bioregion are employed in the various sectors of Auroville, and have access to financial and educational opportunities for their children and themselves. Auroville employees also benefit from ‘SEWA’, a savings scheme that provides them with a gratuity account, zero-interest education loans, regular salary increase, and an accident cover policy. Many undergo training to gain useful professional skills and are then able to establish their own services and enterprises. A number of Auroville enterprises consciously create employment opportunities specifically for local women to improve their livelihoods, health, and learning vistas. Similarly, several technology sector enterprises create opportunities for local youth to earn a fair wage while gaining advanced competency through on-site job training.

‘Joy of Learning’ event in a neighbouring village

Health and well-being

Health services and camps for the villages surrounding Auroville began in 1969 with a dispensary and a basic clinic in a thatched hut. Today, comprehensive primary health care and preventive care services are provided to a local population of about 20,000 through regular medical and dental checkups for adults and school children with provision of essential medicines and nutritional advice.


From the early years in Auroville, the focus on erosion-control, reforestation, regenerative agriculture and water harvesting ultimately transformed the area from a red desert into a green haven. As many projects developed, the knowledge gained through this and on-going research has been transferred to the bioregion and further afield, becoming a model for green practices in India and abroad.

Aurokiya eye health screening


Based on the principles of Integral Education, Auroville’s educational initiatives aim to be guided by the insight that humans are born with a unique physical, social, and spiritual identity which unfolds and develops through a conscious and ongoing interaction between ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’. [Five of the outreach schools serving children from the bioregion are highlighted in Evolving Approaches to Integral Education in Voice of Auroville, Issue 04]

Culture and arts

Cultural centres offer opportunities for expressions of local cultural identity, and connect Auroville and its bioregion by providing opportunities to study traditional arts, crafts, music, dance, sports, cooking, and natural remedies.


A regional sports association links Auroville and 20 surrounding villages, aiming to foster unity and skill development through a programme of sports grounds and facilities, including coaching for regular competitions at local, regional and national levels. Building on Mother and Sri Aurobindo’s emphasis on physical education as an essential component of growth, Auroville’s outreach schools offer a variety of sports and physical development activities, and sporting events are organised that enable bridge-building across different villages and settlements as well as strengthening the connections between Auroville and its neighbours.

WasteLess educational initiative

A sampling of Auroville's work with direct impact in the region

There are 13 villages in the immediate area of Auroville, comprising about 40,000 people, and approximately 40 villages in the larger bioregional area. 14 initiatives that work actively with the bioregion and have a direct, measurable impact on bioregional development are highlighted in the sixth issue of Voice of Auroville. You can discover a short introduction to these 14 initiatives by clicking here.

Extracted from Voice of Auroville, Issue 06, June 2024

Eco Femme menstrual education event