An expert committee, headed by Secretary of Ministry of Water Resources Shashi Shekar, has informed the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that rehabilitation of Yamuna floodplains, “destroyed” by a cultural event organized by Art of Living, will cost Rs 42.02 crore and take almost 10 years.
As reported by The Indian Express, the committee said, “An estimated 120 hectares (about 300 acres) of the river Yamuna’s west bank floodplains and about 50 hectares (120 acres) of the eastern side floodplains have been adversely affected ecologically at different magnitudes.”
Last year, NGT had allowed Sri Sri Ravishankar’s Art of Living to hold a three-day “World Cultural Festival” on the Yamuna floodplains to mark the organisation’s 35 years of existence. The event was attended by many dignitaries including the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Delhi Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. Several environmental activists and NGOs had protested against the event, saying that it would irreparably damage the river. Taking note of the matter, the green panel had fined the organization Rs 120 crore, which was later revised to Rs 5 crore. Following the payment of Rs 25 lakh, the foundation challenged the fine and said that the remaining amount be treated as bank guarantee that would be used to develop a biodiversity park in the area. However, it was compelled to pay the entire fine.
Initially, a four-member committee had recommended that the foundation pays Rs 100-120 crore as rehabilitation cost of the river due to “extensive and severe damage” to its floodplains.
Later, a seven-member committee informed the green panel that the event had “completely destroyed” the riverbed, and not simply damaged it.
A 47-page report by the committee highlighted the damages caused the event, including complete clearing of all kinds of vegetation of the floodplain and loss of all dependent biodiversity where the main event was held, physical damages to the riverbeds, and blocking of side channels that would invariably disturb the flow and bottom sediments besides bringing in particulate material (sediments and organic matter) into it.
However, in response to NGT committee’s allegations, Art of Living released an official statement on their page.
The Logical Indian condemns the practice of any activities that adversely affect our water resources. The concerned parties, in this case, should be held accountable to restore Yamuna floodplains.