Yamuna floodplains destroyed, will take Rs 13.29 crore and at least 10 years to restore it
Spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living (AOL) extravaganza between March 11 and 13 last year was a commercial success for him, and a complete disaster for the Yamuna floodplains, on which he, in cohorts with the central government, had forcibly held the three-day mega gathering.
An expert committee, appointed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), to look into the rampant destruction and complete disregard for a delicate natural balance, has confirmed this in the report that it has submitted to the NGT. The report says that not only would it cost Rs 13.29 crore to try and restore the floodplains, but would also take almost 10 long years to do it.
The expert committee, headed by Shashi Shekhar, secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, has submitted in his report that major restoration work has to be carried out to compensate for the damage caused to Yamuna floodplains because of the excesses during the AOL’s strangely named World Culture Festival.
Ravi Shankar’s AOL, of course, has remained unfazed through the huge hue and cry raised before the event, having gone on to announce further and bigger programmes, in Australia and other venues. Probably enthused by the large scale destruction of flora and fauna and a delicate natural balance on the floodplains, Ravi Shankar has been reportedly invited to hold another extravaganza at the Melbourne Cricket Grounds in 2018. Whether that will kill the world famous cricket pitch at the venue is not clear.
The report states: “It has been estimated that approximately 120 hectares (about 300 acres) of floodplains of west (right bank) of the river Yamuna and about 50 hectares (120 acres) floodplains of the eastern side (left bank) of the river have been adversely impacted ecologically at different magnitudes.”
The World Culture Festival, celebrating 35 years of AOL, saw more than 37,000 artists from around the world perform on the floodplains, effectively destroying what was a difficult patch to maintain in normal times. The stage itself was spread over seven acres.
Ravi Shankar has been quoted—among other insipid issuances—as saying: “We should love the diversity in the nature.” When the NGT said it wanted AOL to pay Rs 5 crore as compensation, and faced with a barrage of allegations, AOL had threatened it will go to the Supreme Court. AOL has reportedly said that there had been no scientific assessment of pre- and post-situation of the floodplains.
This expert committee report will be a strong instrument in the hands of the NGT to assess the case and bring the culprits to book.
—By India Legal Bureau