Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living (AOL) organized the ‘World Culture Festival’ extravaganza on Yamuna River which completely destroyed the riverbed, expert committee told the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
The committee monitored the entire floodplain area which was used for the main event side between DND flyover and Barapulla drain not simply damaged but completely destroyed. The ground is now totally compacted, hardened and leveled and is totally devoid of water bodies and any vegetation.
The expert committee, set up by the NGT said to a bench headed by Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar that the area where the stage was erected was heavily consolidated with a different type of material which was used to level the grounds and compress it. They used huge amount of debris and earth to build the ramps for access from the DND flyover and from the two pontoon bridges across the Barapulla drain.
To inspect the site of the World Culture Festival the tribunal had directed seven members 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.
In its 47 page report, the committee has stated the three day event demolished the floodplain’s almost all natural vegetation like trees, tall grasses, shrubs, aquatic vegetation like water hyacinth which was the habitat of animals, mud-dwelling organisms and insects.
It also said that these organisms were rendered homeless and most may never able to return. This is a great loss of biodiversity. “Far more significant changes are expected in the micro-organisms which are critical to ecosystem functioning.” The physical damage changed the topography. The construction of roads and ramps, leveling the ground and filling up of water bodies has almost demolished the natural physical features and the diversity of habitats.
The NGT fined Rs. 5 crore reducing its initial amount of Rs 120 crore on AOL and its founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. But after paying Rs 25 lakhs they missed the deadlines to pay the full payment of the fine. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar refused to pay the full penalty, even to know the fact that it could send him to jail. Rather, he claimed that AOL should be given an award for leaving the site in better condition than before.
The World Culture Festival held in March this year and thousands of devotees attended this festival. It also received political support. PM Narendra Modi, AAP Convenor and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, BJP President Amit Shah all attended the event.