Organiser’s ‘green’ claims rubbished

Updated - September 06, 2016 10:51 am IST

Published - March 08, 2016 12:00 am IST - NEW DELHI

Preparations on in full swing for the festival, which will be held on the Yamuna floodplains fromMarch 11 to 13. Photos: Sandeep Saxena

Preparations on in full swing for the festival, which will be held on the Yamuna floodplains fromMarch 11 to 13. Photos: Sandeep Saxena

Organisers of a three-day cultural festival supposed to take place on the Yamuna floodplains starting Friday insist that the event is eco-friendly, but environmentalists aren’t buying it.

The World Culture Festival, being organised by the Art of Living Foundation from Friday to Sunday, came under fire for its venue – a 1,000-acre site on the Yamuna floodplains in East Delhi. As per the Master Plan-2021 of Delhi, the area is a floodplain – meant for bio-diversity parks and water reservoirs.

Though the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), which owns the land, gave permission for the event in December 2015, environmentalist Manoj Misra moved the National Green Tribunal (NGT) seeking to shift the venue. The NGT, which is currently hearing the case, had in January 2015 passed an order banning any construction on the floodplains.

The Art of Living, which is expecting 35 lakh people to attend the event, says it has not dug the ground at the site, and all the structures being erected are temporary. The festival, which marks the 35th anniversary of the foundation, will include a possibly world-record breaking seven-acre-wide stage.

“Before we started, a soil test was done to see how much weight it can take. Only after that did we decide the size of the stage and the audience stands. It will be the world’s largest eco-friendly stage,” said Mamta Kail, an Art of Living volunteer at the site.

She explained that the team had refrained from digging, and the entire stage had been put up on the ground using wood, ply and beams. “No cement was used,” she said.

In addition to 10,000 volunteers from Delhi, there will be a professional housekeeping agency to clean the grounds after the end of each day. “In total, we will have 50,000 to 1 lakh volunteers, who will ensure that there is no littering. We will leave the spot as it was before,” she said.

However, Mr. Misra, the convenor of the Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, said the claims were false. “It is not about what materials they use, which are not eco-friendly as they are using iron beams, but rather the damage to the vegetation at the site,” said Mr. Misra.

He said the floodplains were an undulating area with wetlands, where the Barapullah drain met the river. The dirt water went through three levels of wetlands before entering the river, getting filtered by the reed and tall grasses.

“There were insects, birds and a wealth of vegetation, which is not longer there. How can that be eco-friendly,” asked Mr. Misra.

The Art of Living started a drive to clean the Barapullah drain on February 16, by pouring an enzyme called Ecozyme. The founder of Art of Living, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, gave the drive credit for improving water quality.

“Thanks to the efforts of over 100,000 Delhi households who for 3 months prepared enzymes to clean nallahs, methane emission has reduced,” he tweeted on March 3.

Mr. Misra, however, dismissed this by calling the act “illegal”.

“They cannot pour anything into the river just like that, without the permission of the Central Pollution Control Board and the Centre. Did anyone test this enzyme they came up with,” asked Mr. Misra.

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