Manoj Misra, the convener of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, on Saturday rubbished the claims made by the Art of Living (AOL) Foundation about removal of debris to clean up the Yamuna floodplains and introduction of enzymes into the drains to clean up the river.
Mr. Misra, who has petitioned the National Green Tribunal (NGT) against the proposed AOL festival, said that “debris from a portion of the site has been removed, not out of any act of relief to the riverbed, but to use it to level low-lying areas and to dump it on the access roads that have been raised.”
He added that this fact was also supported by the letters written by an agency on behalf of AOL to the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and the DDA’s response to it.
“While the DDA has clearly stated that the agency must follow NGT directions with respect to dumping, nothing of this sort appears to have been done,” he noted, citing the NGT inspection committee report.
An NGT-appointed panel has said in its report: “The entire area of the floodplain between the Yamuna and DND flyover has been levelled flat. On the western side of the river, 50 to 60 hectares of floodplain have been completely destroyed. Natural vegetation comprising reeds, shrubs, trees have been removed. A large number of birds and other natural life on the floodplain have vanished.”
Mr. Misra added: “The site was a wonderful verdant marshy land with typical vegetation of a drain mouth [Barapula drain meets the river here]. AOL’s claims that it has acted in the interest of the river are misleading, to say the least. Also, the plans of AOL to introduce enzymes and plant trees at the site betray its total lack of understanding of a river system and its floodplains in general, and the restoration needs of this site in particular. How do you restore a marshy wetland by planting trees? Also, we would like to know if they have taken statutory permissions before trying to introduce enzymes [proteins] into the river."
Meanwhile, a detailed ‘work-list’ statement issued by AOL notes that when the site of the festival was identified in December 2015, there was already a massive dump of construction debris spread over 25 acres.
“This was brought to the notice of the DDA by us on December 15 last, along with pictures of the site. Only upon the grant of permission from the DDA, we started removing the debris from December 22. We have not blocked any river channel of the Yamuna by throwing any debris into it,” it noted.
The Art of Living further noted that the material used for the temporary construction was eco-friendly, which will not cause damage to the river or the environment.
"The stage is temporary in nature and every bit of it will be removed after the event is over. No concrete roads have been made, the ramps are made of mud. We have not cleared any greenery or levelled the area by dumping any construction debris as alleged. Significantly, more than 512 tonne of garbage and toxic material was physically cleared by our volunteers.”