Art of Living Event on Yamuna: New Panel Gives Different Findings
There are new findings in the investigation into AOL’s 2016 event on the Yamuna floodplains. 
There are new findings in the investigation into AOL’s 2016 event on the Yamuna floodplains.  (Photo altered by The Quint

Art of Living Event on Yamuna: New Panel Gives Different Findings

A committee set up to submit an action plan for restoring the Yamuna floodplains, told the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Friday that there was no compaction of the soil on the site where the Art of Living's (AOL) three-day cultural extravaganza was held in 2016.

The report assumes significance as its findings are different to that of an earlier seven-member expert panel, which had alleged that the Yamuna floodplains were completely destroyed due to the World Cultural Festival of AOL.

Also Read: AOL Event: Restoring ‘Destroyed’ Yamuna Floodplains to Take 10 Yrs

What the NGT Report Said

The three-member committee, which was formed by the NGT after submission of the report by the larger panel, said on Friday that the land where the AOL's event was held in 2016 was found to be fully covered with grass and some saplings of tree species.

The committee said in its report submitted before a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar:

This kind of grass and natural regeneration of seedlings is not possible on compacted soil. “The area was also under water in small depressions in the majority of the areas where the function was held. No significant size of the wetland/water body was noticed by the committee in the area used by AOL.
Art of Living built the World Culture Festival terrain on the Yamuna flood plain.
Art of Living built the World Culture Festival terrain on the Yamuna flood plain.
(Photo Courtesy: Siddharth Safaya)

Referring to Google earth images, the committee said in its report that it could not locate any "heap of debris" on the site, and it is evident that no "wetland or water body" was seen on the site prior to the event.

The report added, “The committee also inspected the areas on eastern bank which are under the control of UP government. This site, as informed by chief engineer, was used for parking of vehicles on 15 hectare land permitted by them to AOL temporarily for the event.”

Also Read: Art of Living Says the Yamuna Floodplain Is... Not a Floodplain?

Garbage at the venue of the event. 
Garbage at the venue of the event. 
(Photo: Sanjoy Deb)

Further, the report claimed:

He further informed the committee members that this land was being used by farmers for raising agricultural crops prior to the function, and at present also, the site is under agricultural crops. 
The committee observed that no compaction of the soil was seen in this area as many portions were ploughed out where the soil was very loose and very healthy crops were standing on the ground. This is only possible if the soil is loose which can support the crop.

Also Read: Art of Living Wants to Clean the Yamuna With Kitchen Waste

The panel comprises principal commissioner of DDA's horticulture department and chief engineers from the irrigation departments of Delhi and UP.

With regard to the removal of the toxins, which may have leached out of the dumped debris on the site, the panel said that two successive monsoons might have already washed away such material.

Also Read: Sri Sri’s AOL Pays Rs 4.75 Cr as Penalty for Yamuna Plain Damages

AOL Event Area Totally Destroyed

Tens of thousands of people left behind plastic water bottles and snack packets over three days. 
Tens of thousands of people left behind plastic water bottles and snack packets over three days. 
(Photo: Sanjoy Deb)

The panel said:

After the function of AOL, one monsoon season of 2016 is already over and monsoon season of 2017 is in progress, and it is expected that many of the toxic substances might have already been washed away. 

It also added, “Anyway, toxification, if any, identified after the comparison of the testing of the soils of AOL site and the adjoining areas of the river, is proposed to be removed through the remediation methods.”

The committee has recommended against creation and maintenance of the wetlands within the Yamuna flood plain as such type of activity will also alter the natural flow of the river.

Also Read: Art of Living Devotees Say WCF Won’t Hurt the Yamuna

The matter is fixed for hearing on 4 August.

Earlier, an expert committee had told the tribunal that restoration of Yamuna floodplains, “ravaged” due to a cultural extravaganza organised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living in 2016, would cost Rs 42.02 crore besides additional ancillary expenses.

It had suggested that there would be two components in the rehabilitation plan – physical and biological – and they would cost Rs 28.73 crore and Rs 13.29 crore respectively.

The seven-member committee had observed that the entire floodplain area used for the main event site between DND flyover and the Barapulla drain (on the right bank of river Yamuna) had been completely destroyed, not simply damaged.

Also Read: Sri Sri, Why Are Rag-Pickers Left to Clean Art of Living’s Mess?

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