Experts cry foul on Day 2 of World Culture Fest

he controversy around the Art of Living’s World Culture Festival being held on the Yamuna floodplains refuses to die down. Environmentalists say that on Saturday – the second day of the mega festival – the organisers violated the orders of the National Green Tribunal once again.

With heavy rain on Friday and Saturday, the venue — which is located on the ecologically sensitive floodplains — was reduced to a slushy field with wet carpets and planks of wood greeting visitors. In fact, on Friday, many elderly visitors to the festival slipped in the mud.

On Saturday evening, the organisers tried to alleviate the problem by bringing in coarse sand that was to be put on top of the wet mud.

The muddy patches were first ploughed, after which fresh sand was put on top using excavators.

Though this was done to improve access to the stage, experts say it was a violation of the NGT’s order against construction on the floodplains.

“This is in gross violation of the NGT’s order that imposes a Rs.50,000 fine on dumping of construction material on the floodplains,” said Manoj Misra, an environmentalist who had moved the NGT, unsuccessfully, to get the venue of the festival shifted.

An NGT order of January 13, 2015, had said: “There shall be complete prohibition on dumping of any material in and around river Yamuna.”

While hearing the case against the festival being held at the floodplains, the NGT had said that the area had been disturbed. The tribunal also imposed an initial fine of Rs.5 crore on the Art of Living Foundation.

Further, the green panel set up a committee including members from the Union Environment and Forest Ministry, the Central Pollution Control Board and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee.

Ashwani Kumar, chairperson of the DPCC, said that the committee had given directions as per the Water Act, Air Act and the Environment Protection Act to the organisers.

Issues of waste disposal and ambient air quality, however, remain to be addressed.

With dozens of large diesel-based generators at the site, the pollution due to emissions is also being studied.

The ambient air quality of the area will be studied during and after the festival to gauge any possible impact.

Meanwhile, the Art of Living Foundation and its founder, who goes by the moniker Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, denied allegations of environmental damage to the area.

Mr. Shankar said on Saturday that the farmers who live in the vicinity did not have access to electricity, but on Thursday evening they had been given solar lamps by the Foundation.

Organisers have violated the NGT orders once

again, say environmentalists

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Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 3:37:00 AM |

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