India is acclaimed for its culture, tradition and heritage. While Indian cities like Delhi, Calcutta, Mumbai and Bangalore are losing their traditional touch, it is the villages that are a true mirror of Indian culture and tradition. However, we do not talk about Indian villages as much as we should. About 75% of the Indian population resides in its villages. 

Rural India had always been a focal point for its concernsfarmers suicide, poor yield, reduced quality of products, pollution due to burning waste, lack of sanitation, harassment of women, pollution, deforestation, and whatnot!

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How are Indian villages working towards sustainability? - Sheet1
traditional house in a village _©httpscuriositysavestheplanet.comsustainable-housing-practices-from-traditional-indian-culture

However, lately, Indian villages have been the centre for experimentation for new technology and sustainable living. 

Sustainability Practices

How are Indian villages working towards sustainability? - Sheet2
Solar micro-grids can transform energy access in the Indian countryside _© Adam Barr

Indian villages have always yielded unique ideas in terms of sustainability because of the prevailing conditions and the demands of the people. Most of the places in India are still in developing condition. However, we have noticed that people in an Indian village have always practised sustainable practices in some way or the other due to the traditions rooted in ancient India. People now refer to these already known practices and ‘go green’ or ‘best out of waste’ practices. 

Lately, a lot of Indian villages have shown innovation and resilience to adopt change without losing the actual knowledge. Let us go through some of the changes rural India has adopted for a thriving future:

1. Kedia: A New Face Of Farming

How are Indian villages working towards sustainability? - Sheet3
some festival to celebrate organic farming _©httpsen.gaonconnection.coma-village-in-bihar-switches-to-organic-farming-sets-an-example

Rural India vastly relies on agriculture as a means of livelihood. This has always been assisted by various techniques. Traditionally, organic matters like compost, manures or domestic sewage were used as manure and rain was a source of irrigation. However, the enormous needs of the masses were still difficult to accomplish. 

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In 1950, the government introduced HYV (High Yielding Variety) seeds, chemical fertilizers and pesticides to shoot up the production of grains. Although highly unsafe, these methods helped the farmers to attain their goals. Later, it caused the degradation of soil, increased intake of groundwater, pollution and compromised the quality of food. 

How are Indian villages working towards sustainability? - Sheet4
organic farming _©httpswww.patnabeats.combihars-kedia-village-an-iconic-success-story-in-the-eco-agri-revolution

Indian Villages do not acquire the necessary fame as the dark stories of farmers suicide, low yields and poor quality of products. are always at the forefront. Between all this, Kedia in Bihar has emerged as a ray of hope. It started off as a campaign called ‘Bihar Living Soil’ gained momentum by which an attempt was made to reduce the reliance on chemical practices. This shift was strenuous but the farmers on Kedia persevered. 

The project has taught the farmers to make their own pesticides and fertilizers using cow dung and residue. Each dwelling unit has a biogas plant that assists them to convert the waste into energy. The input cost was reduced by 60% just by replacing the artificial materials. Other works, such as ploughing the field, were done by domesticated cattle. 

Due to this, the farmers started producing their own seeds, which scaled up the production. There was an increase in demand as the quality of the crops was better than others. 

2. Khonoma: Nagaland Warrior Village

How are Indian villages working towards sustainability? - Sheet5
ariel view of farming in Khonoma_©Anne Pinto-Rodrigues

Khonoma is renowned for its eccentric take on agriculture. In the northeast patch of India, forests are cleared for agriculture (called shifting cultivation). This practice has caused soil erosion and acute water shortage. However, in Khonoma, to reduce soil erosion, alder trees are grown with crops. This is also a source of firewood. 

To ensure the ability of this practice to continue, a site with alder trees is cleared of underbrush to grow vegetables for a couple of years and then left fallow for four to six years to allow the soil to rejuvenate. This has set Khonoma apart from the other villages facing erosion issues. 

Khonoma was once known for its hunting. Hunting here wasn’t just a sport but had a cultural significance. In 1990, the people there killed around 300 Blyth as a part of a one-week competition. This concerned the people there. They started to create awareness regarding the protection of wildlife under the guidance of leadersNiketu Iralu and Thepfulhouvi Angami. The area of 125 sq. km is protected from hunting and clearing trees. However, this hasn’t been easy. People still find ways to hunt on the outskirts. However, the progress made is commendable and needs more appreciation.

3. Dharnai: Story Of One Solar Village

How are Indian villages working towards sustainability? - Sheet6
Children sitting under a solar panel in Dharnai, Bihar pc_© Vivek M

Most of us have lived a privileged life with consistent electricity, water, food and all the other needs. For most of us, a slight inconvenience with electricity causes us to lose our minds and ruin our day. But can we all imagine a place, where the entire generation has never experienced what living in light at night, fan in summers is like? This was what Dharnai, a village in Bihar, has gone through. 

Earlier, the residents here used kerosene lamps and diesel generators to satisfy their needs. It wasn’t years before the people in the village realised they had to take this issue into their own hands. They decided to utilize solar power and avail themselves of its benefits.

With the help of greenspace, solar-powered grids were installed. This lit up 450 household and commercial areas. This is the first complete solar-run village in India. The life of women in Indian villages have always faced the issue of harassment as they go miles to collect water, fuel and are restricted from availing basic facilities like using toilets. 

The life of women in Dharnai saw a drastic turn after the introduction of solar power as it created opportunities for girls and women to access public toilets and go out even after dark. Children can study till late as there are no hurdles in their way. The village has also gone further and started using solar streetlights to ensure the safety of people. 

Once struggling to get basic electricity like most villages in India, Dharnai has now changed its fate and become the first village in India to completely run on solar power. 

4. Auroville: A Sustainable Utopia

How are Indian villages working towards sustainability? - Sheet7
some workshop in auroville_© www.outreachmedia.auroville.org

Auroville, a utopian community located in Pondicherry, is renowned internationally for its sustainable practices. It was founded by a French ex-pat. It has approximately 50,00 residents from different parts of the globe and is one of the top tourist destinations in India. Auroville promotes numerous sustainable practices. Various research institutes are working to introduce innovative processes for a better quality of life and reduce pollution and wastage of resources. 

Solar technology is extensively used for water pumping, lighting, and electricity generation. Auroville holds the record for the highest concentration of sustainable systems in India, which incorporates solar, wind and biogas plants. Another treatment used is effective microorganisms. It consists of a liquid with microbes that assist in the decomposition of waste. It reduces the amount of sludge in black water. Promoting local food and natural agriculture is widely used in Auroville. These were mostly examples of numerous technologies Auroville is known for. Apart from this, Auroville is exemplary for its architectural practices among renowned architects. 

Auroville is known to create climatic sensitive designs. It is known for its material knowledge and the sustainable techniques it offers. Auroville has numerous earthen projects where most projects use compressed earth blocks. Walls made out of these materials are cheaper, consume less energy, and impart more strength. 

Other than these, Auroville also endorses techniques like eaw rammed earth, wattle and daub and sun-dried bricks construction. It is known for the compressed earth building techniques, dry composting toilets, greywater systems and natural dyeing. To share this knowledge, Auroville holds numerous workshops to raise awareness about materials. 

References

Raghav Garg, Sustainability Check on Rural India. 

https://eusda.org.uk/blog/news/sustainability-check-on-rural-india

Accessed – 29 / 7 / 21

Pujarini Sen, July 20, 2015. Dharnai: the storey of one solar village

https://www.greenpeace.org/india/en/story/390/dharnai-story-of-one-solar-village/

Accessed – 30 / 7 / 21 

Ariel Sophia Bardi, April 7, 2017. 6 Innovative Eco-Villages in India

https://www.fodors.com/world/asia/india/experiences/news/photos/6-innovative-eco-villages-in-india]

Accessed – 30 / 7 / 21 

Sanchari Pal, February 6, 2017. 15 Progressive Indian Villages That Will Make You Want to Ditch Your City Life Right Away!

https://www.thebetterindia.com/85354/inspiring-indian-villages-sustainable-development/

Accessed – 29 / 7 / 21

Anne Pinto-Rodrigues, April 1, 2019. How a small community in the northeastern corner of India became the country’s first green village

https://www.eco-business.com/opinion/how-a-small-community-in-the-northeastern-corner-of-india-became-the-countrys-first-green-village/

Accessed – 31/ 7 / 21

Author

A keen observer and nature enthusiast, Pranita is a final year architecture student. She believes architects need to be empathic and compassionate to acknowledge users’ obstacles and comfort. She relishes reading about urban design, art, aesthetics, spaces, people, countries, culture and craves to learn more. Barring this, she squanders her time overthinking and anticipating the worst aftermath.

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