Art of Living Wants to Clean the Yamuna With Kitchen Waste

More than 10,000 litres of enzymes were dumped into the Yamuna without authorisation and no scientific verification.

2 min read
Army soldiers walk on a pontoon bridge laid on the waters of the Yamuna to reach the venue of the World Culture Festival. (Photo: Reuters)

In an effort to reduce the stench from the black-coloured Yamuna, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living Foundation says they dumped more than 10,000 litres of “eco-enzymes” into the river. The enzymes are supposed to break down pollutants, but there is no scientific evidence backing this claim.

Art of Living claims the enzyme was prepared in 100,000 homes and consists of kitchen waste, like vegetable and fruit peels, mixed with water and sugar, and fermented for three months.

In an order issued on 9 March, the National Green Tribunal forbade Art of Living from dumping these enzymes into the river without permission from the Central Pollution Control Board and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee. But the foundation has already been dumping the ‘enzymes’ for two weeks.

A worker carries chairs at the venue of the World Culture Festival on the banks of the Yamuna. (Photo: Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee)
A worker carries chairs at the venue of the World Culture Festival on the banks of the Yamuna. (Photo: Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee)

According to the foundation’s blog, enzymes have had a noticeable impact on reducing pollution in the Yamuna, but these claims have not been verified by scientists.

The organisation also claims that one litre of the enzyme solution can treat 1,000 litres of polluted water.

After two weeks of introducing the enzyme into the Yamuna, the amount of pollutants in the water has decreased visibly. Toxicity has reduced enough that locals have reported a significant reduction in foul smell, to the extent that birds and buffaloes that never ventured near the water, are now entering it.  
Art of Living Blog
Workers prepare the venue (Photo: Reuters)
Workers prepare the venue (Photo: Reuters)

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar tweeted that the fact that buffaloes are swimming in the water is evidence that the quality has already improved, but petitioners against the World Culture Festival say this is not ample evidence.

So where did this idea come from? The “waste” enzyme has been attributed to Thai “alternative medicine practitioner” Rosukon Poompanvong, who prescribes deep breathing and tea as a treatment for Ebola.

The enzymes have not been tested in a laboratory and no peer-reviewed study has assessed the impact of the enzyme of river ecosystems. The few studies that have looked into the concept do not suggest that it is an effective tool for addressing water pollution.

Petitioners Anand Arya and Manoj Mishra raised the issue before the National Green Tribunal as part of their petition to stop the event.

For the love of God, I cannot figure out how kitchen waste and jaggery fermented together can clean the river. You have to develop a scientific protocol for delivery of the enzymes. This can include even a simple laboratory experiment.
Anand Arya told Catch News

Art of Living will no longer be allowed to use the enzyme without further verification.

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