Status report: Oct. 2006

It is two months since the pointReturn land was bought and it is time to take stock of what is happening and what is not; what are the immediate plans and what are they dependent on.

It is worth recalling the land was chosen for being an abandoned lot. So the phrase, developing from the ground up, is perfectly appropriate. There is no power, no fence, no well, no shelter and no homes in any of the adjoining fields.

The land sits at the junction of three villages. Since it has lain uncared for, it is a passage for people traveling between villages. Shepherds bring their flock over to clip whatever vegetation dares to sprout. Trespass is not heavy but inevitable now; it has to be stopped in time if regeneration is to happen. How does one start work in such a place?

The first thing to do would be to build a shelter. I am planning on a structure that houses a salaried keeper, a basic store and a room and bath for me or anyone staying overnight. I’d say the real work will organise itself only when I spend a few days per week on the land. Before even electricity, there’s got to be water and a washroom.

And what’s stopping my building one, right-away? A decision on access, that’s what. Currently there is legal access from the west, from behind the hill. But the half km road is badly rutted and unusable. I park my car about 200 m. afar. I walk with my helper Mano, both of us lugging tools and drinking water over a rough path. Doesn’t do much to cheer us, as the pointReturn land lies unseen, around the hill, until we are actually upon it. And then there is the 500 m long stretch of land down the slope. Lunch, we either bring or head for the nearest eating shop, 4 km away. Nothing much is going to get done this way on short visits.

Were I able to enter the land from the east, everything will fall in place quickly. A lovely public road is barely 200 m from the land. There is a small cluster of houses beside the road, which would make it less lonely for the keeper. The rub is, there are other properties in the way. There were two possibilities to negotiate an access with owners. One went to a dead-end and the other is a ‘no’ for now and a ‘maybe’ for later. That’s hugely disappointing.

Reluctantly, I am retreating from the best solution and accepting the one that’s possible. So the road in the west, behind the hill has to be repaired. What holding that up? Local elections! Elections to the panchayats are on soon and by late October, a new President of Peruveli village panchayat will be in office. I will have to discuss the road with him.

Talks are also on with a landowner who wants to sell 5 acres. This would be a good buy as it comes with a well, which needs extensive deepening and repairing, though. Things are likely to begin to roll by November. There could be a stop-over place on pointReturn campus by late February, 2007.

Some things have happened already. I have got a load of vetiver transported from Kerala. One half is in my farm in a nursery and the other half is awaiting the North East monsoon to arrive to be planted at the pointReturn site. Contour lines have been marked and ploughed to take the vetiver. Even that will happen by November. [On vetiver care and planting, in a later post and in detail]

On another front, I am waiting to close a deal to sell an acre of land in Muttukkadu. The proceeds will be used to develop pointReturn. For some strange reason that deal has been stuck for three months. But it has every chance of going through. Also, by November?

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