We have been working over the years towards developing at least one small-scale housing project in India where families and individuals who genuinely believe in ‘green living’ and a small carbon and ecological footprint, can reside. The aim of the project is not ascetic living, but to facilitate a lifestyle where one is eco-conscious and aware of the effects of one’s actions and way of life on the environment; a lifestyle where modernity and eco-sensitivity can coexist. Due to resource constraints we haven’t been able to get started on this plan, especially considering the huge increase in land prices in most Indian cities over the past half decade. We have therefore moved our focus to implementing a small-scale sustainable home project in rural India, and also help interested groups establish such projects any where in India.
We are currently planning an organic farm plot and farm house project outside Shantiniketan near Kolkata, West Bengal (similar projects are also being considered near Bangalore, Karnataka and Gurgaon, Haryana).
Considering the location this will perhaps be a second-home or weekend retreat for most residents, but any one who intends to use it for round-the-year living will also be comfortable, and find that all amenities and conveniences are provided for. The project is exclusively for those who genuinely believe in the philosophy behind it and is not a ‘fad’ project that throws about the word ‘green’ as a marketing label. It will therefore be completely different from any of the (so-called) farmhouse or bagan bari projects that have come up outside many Indian cities, including Kolkata.
This project is located within a village outside Bolpur Shantiniketan. Every home unit (or bagan bari as called locally) within the project will come with its own piece of land which the owners can use for organic cultivation or planting as per their choice. We will manage and cultivate the individual plots organically for a period of three years as per the choice of the owner. The home project will be completely independent, but will be located within a larger organic farm, where a farmer training centre, demonstration farm and student orientation centre will also be sited.
The project will be developed as a cooperative, with those aspects that form the ethos and the reasons behind the project – cultivation, construction, lifestyle, waste management, energy usage, animal welfare, etc. – being part of the rules, agreements and by-laws. Sattvic Farms will continue to be associated with the project and provide its services and support as long as these key aspects remain unchanged, but the cooperative would also have the right to decide its own course after three years when the project is complete, all systems are in place, and the owners well-acquainted with each other.
Some of the important features of the project would be :
Housing : Modern, secure homes which are aesthetically-pleasing and comfortable, made using locally-available, environment-friendly building materials to the largest extent possible, and with sensible architecture (including passive solar planning bearing in mind the sunshine, wind and rain patterns of the area). While comfort will not be compromised and the architecture will be largely customised, ostentatious or extravagant construction is not permitted.
We are also considering the possibility of making traditional mud cottages (matir bari locally) for any one who is interested. We know some of the best talent in the area when it comes to making good mud houses, itself a dying art now. These are possibly the most environment-friendly mode of dwelling, cheaper and extremely comfortable, and anyone who has stayed in one learns to fall in love with them. However, mud cottages require a lot of regular maintenance and we would need to consider if we can provide facilities for their regular upkeep, especially if there are many of such units. If constructed, they would be made keeping modern-day aesthetics in mind and with provisions for all creature comforts inside.
Energy : A combination of solar thermal, solar PV, wind, bio-gas and biomass gasification. As much of the project’s energy as possible (if not all) will be self-generated using renewable sources, and generated to the extent of meeting round-the-clock requirements. A grid connection may be available for emergencies.
Water : Proper management and recycling of white (kitchen), grey (washing and bathing) and black (toilets) water. Water harvesting and recycling, aquifer recharge and conservation practices will be implemented.
Food : Every home unit will be able to grow their own food as per their choice, which we will undertake for the first three years. The farm within which this project will be located, will also provide the widest variety of organically grown fresh food.
Waste management : All the waste generated by the residents as well as elsewhere within the project will be segregated at source (for example, a home will provide its own garbage duly segregated into biodegradable, plastic, recyclable and ‘others’). The biodegradable wastes will be composted by us, the recyclable and plastic waste will be sold to an external agency who will reuse the same, and the ‘others’ will be land-filled.
Lifestyle and Recreation : An amenities centre, play fields, sports facilities, open areas, an ecological chemical-free swimming pool, dining facilities, etc. will be part of the project.
Infrastructure : Boundary walling along project boundary, internal roads / pathways, parking lot, water supply and sewage lines, electricity and wiring, internal fencing (live fencing only), solar street lights, electric carts (optional).
Maintenance : Maintenance of homes, common areas and most importantly, individual farm plots, will be provided by Satavic Farms for a minimum period of three years, and as long as we are associated with the project at the option of the home buyers. This would include development of the farm plots as well as their maintenance (implying cultivation). This frees families from the cost and bother of employing labour for upkeep of their plots. Families can still be fully involved with the operations in their plots and be hands-on if they desire.
As mentioned above, we are interested in anyone who genuinely believes in the thinking behind the project. We will therefore have checks and balances in place so that ‘investors’ who plan to buy-and-sell, or use their homes for rentals, will not find it easy to do so. Similarly, extravagant or incongruous architecture, lifestyles and landscaping will also be difficult to implement.
For those individuals and families who are genuinely interested however, we plan to keep prices low. For example, as per current estimates we should be able to provide a 435 sq. ft. house with a 4,350 sq. ft. plot (6 cottahs of land in local parlance) for around Rs. 24-25 lakhs, including maintenance of the house and farm plot for three years, and usage of the amenities centre and other common facilities. Smaller and larger units would also be available so that a variety of budgets can be accommodated, starting from approximately Rs.18 lakhs.
So, if you think similarly, and would like to know more, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss this further.