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AoL’s three-day festival ‘completely destroyed’ Yamuna floodplains, expert panel informs NGT

India TV News Desk New Delhi 17 Aug 2016, 12:18:31 PM IST
India TV News Desk

An expert committee appointed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has concluded that Art of Living’s (AoL) three-day ‘World Culture Festival’ on the Yamuna flood plains earlier this year ‘completely destroyed’ the riverbed.

“The committee observes that entire floodplain area used for the main event site i.e. between 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 expert committee, set up by the NGT, told a bench headed by Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar.

“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," it added.

The green tribunal had directed the seven-member expert committee headed by Shashi Shekhar, Secretary of Ministry of Water Resources, and senior scientists and experts from National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, IIT, Delhi and other agencies to inspect the site of the World Culture Festival held in March this year.

The NGT has now asked Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s AoL to submit its response within three weeks on the inspection report of Yamuna flood plains.

The committee, in its 47-page report, also 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 water hyacinth which provides habitat to large number of animals, insects and mud-dwelling organisms.

"These organisms were rendered homeless, driven away by intense activity and many were consigned to graves under the debris. This is invisible loss of biodiversity which cannot be easily assessed and most may never be able to return. Far more significant changes are expected in the micro-organisms which are critical to ecosystem functioning," it said.

The report further states that construction of ramps and roads, alteration of water bodies and flattening of the ground has completely damaged the diversity of habitats.

"The physical damage in the floodplain and its wetlands include a change in topography which has a direct bearing on the diversity of habitats. Construction of ramps and roads, filling up of water bodies and levelling of the ground together with compaction have almost completely eliminated the natural physical features and the diversity of habitats," the report said.

Earlier, AoL had deposited Rs 4.75 crore ‘environment compensation’ with Delhi Development Authority (DDA) as directed by NGT for damaging Yamuna's biodiversity during its ‘World Culture Festival’ in March.

The green panel had on March 9 stopped short of banning the festival held between March 11 and 13, but asked it to pay a compensation of Rs 5 crore for damaging biodiversity and aquatic life of Yamuna. On March 11, AoL had moved a plea seeking four weeks’ time for depositing the amount after which the tribunal allowed the foundation to deposit Rs 25 lakh on that day and granted three weeks to pay the balance amount.