Art Of Living Event 'Completely Destroyed' Yamuna Floodplains: Expert Panel

Report submitted to the National Green Tribunal is unequivocal.

17/08/2016 11:31 AM IST | Updated 17/08/2016 1:46 PM IST
Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Mess at the site of the Art of Living's World Culture Festival after the event, on March 14, 2016 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Sushil Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

The expert committee appointed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to investigate the aftermath of the World Culture Festival, organised by Art of Living (AOL), on the floodplains on the Yamuna in Delhi-NCR has submitted its report.

The 47-page document records extensive damages done to the area and a loss of biodiversity that may never return to it again. On 28 July, the seven-member panel, headed by Shashi Shekhar, Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, laid down their findings to the NGT, saying "the entire floodplain area used for the main event site, i.e. between the DND flyover and Barapullah drain (on the right bank of river Yamuna) has been completely destroyed, not simply destroyed. The ground is now totally levelled, compacted and hardened, totally devoid of water bodies or depressions, and almost completely devoid of any vegetation (except a few large cattails at the base of of the DND flyover)".

The Indian Express reported that the committee was prevented from carry on with its job on 15 April and 6 June when it visited the site for "visual assessment" by volunteers of AOL. AOL has refused to comment on the report. "The NGT is yet to hear our application for reconstitution of the committee," it told The Indian Express. "Hence, it is not logical to take the report of the committee into consideration before our application is heard. Taking all facts into consideration, it is clear that the allegation of environmental damage are unscientific, biased and unsustainable. We will submit our objections to the report in detail once we have had a chance to go through it."

Some of the key findings in the report, outlined by Express, indicate total destruction of the main site by dumping garbage and filling up water bodies. Construction of roads and other structures have also lead to the eradication of flora and fauna.

After the World Culture Festival event in March, the NGT had slapped a fine of Rs 5 crore, reducing its amount of initial Rs 120 crore, on AOL and its founder, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. However, after paying Rs 25 lakhs, AOL missed subsequent deadlines set for the full payment of the fine. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar refused to pay the entire penalty, even if that involved him going to jail. He claimed, on the contrary, that AOL should be given an award for leaving the site in a better condition than it was before.

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