Environment

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s World Culture Festival Destroyed Yamuna Floodplain: NGT Panel

The committee observed that the entire floodplain area used for the main event  has been completely destroyed, not simply damaged.

Workers make arrangements for the three-day World Peace Festival organised by spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in New Delhi in March. Credit: PTI

Workers make arrangements for the three-day World Peace Festival organised by spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in New Delhi. Credit: PTI

The rehabilitation of the Yamuna floodplain, “destroyed” due to a cultural extravaganza organised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living (AOL), will cost Rs 13.29 crore and take almost ten years, an expert committee has told the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

The expert committee, headed by Shashi Shekhar, secretary of the Ministry of Water Resources, has informed the green panel that major restoration work has to be carried out to compensate for the damage to Yamuna floodplains.

“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,” it said.

The green body had last year allowed AOL to hold a three-day ‘World Culture Festival’ on the Yamuna flood plains while expressing its helplessness in banning the event because of “fait accompli”.

It, however, imposed Rs 5 crore as an interim environmental compensation on the foundation for the event’s impact on the environment.

Initially, a four-member committee had recommended that the AOL Foundation should pay Rs 100-120 crore as the restoration cost for “extensive and severe damage” to the floodplains of Yamuna river.

Later, a seven-member expert committee told the NGT that the event organised on Yamuna has “completely destroyed” the riverbed.

Entire area destroyed, not just damaged

The committee had observed that the entire floodplain area used for the main event site between the DND flyover and the Barapulla drain (on the right bank of river Yamuna) has been completely destroyed, not simply damaged.

“The ground is now totally levelled, compacted and hardened and is totally devoid of water bodies or depressions and almost completely devoid of any vegetation.

“The area where the grand stage was erected (and the area immediately behind it) is heavily consolidated – most likely with a different kind of external material used to level the ground and compress it.

“Huge amount of earth and debris have been dumped to construct the ramps for access from the DND flyover and from the two pontoon bridges across the Barapulla drain,” the expert committee said.

The committee, in its 47-page report, has said that due to the three-day event, the floodplain has lost “almost all its natural vegetation” like trees, shrubs, tall grasses, aquatic vegetation including the water hyacinth which provides a natural habitat to a large number of animals, insects and mud-dwelling organisms.