Construction for the World Culture Festival, which will take place on the Yamuna Flood Plain between Delhi and Noida, will not cause permanent damage to the Yamuna River, lawyers representing Art of Living said today.
The comments came after the hearing of a petition led by Manoj Mishra, of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, and private citizen Anand Arya, requesting that the Art of Living event be stopped. Mishra and Arya say the World Culture Festival and the 35 lakh people expected to attend will cause irreparable harm to the Yamuna and its flood plain, which plays an important ecological role for Delhi and its surroundings.
The event is in violation of a 2015 National Green Tribunal order banning construction on the flood plain, the petitioners added. Reports from the committees appointed by the National Green Tribunal and the Ministry of Environment and Forests found that the land on the flood plain had been leveled and cleared to make space for the festival venue. The reports also found construction debris dumped not far from the Yamuna.
This is a classic case of making an example of the high and mighty. The fact is, this is a fragile ecosystem. Water recharge capacity will be destroyed. Who is going to pay for it?Anand Arya, Petitioner
But lawyers working for the Art of Living, a foundation started by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, say the site chosen for the festival was already damaged before construction began. In a letter to the Delhi Development Authority dated 14 December 2015. and shared with The Quint, the organisation notified the DDA that there was debris already on the site before construction started, and offered to have it removed.
The organisation also said that it had received all necessary legal permissions to go forward with the event, including permissions from the DDA, and that it has followed every condition set by the DDA in order to hold the event.
The Yamuna is a very dear and very sacred place not only to Mr Mishra, but also to us. He wants to make it better and so do we. We have enhanced the beauty of the place.Akshama Nath, Lawyer, Art of Living
The World Culture Festival is an opportunity to draw attention to the importance of taking care of the Yamuna, Nath added. Organisers say the flood plain will be left “more beautiful than before.”
For the petitioners, it is already too late. Too much damage has been caused to the flood plain and the weight of 35 lakh people passing in and out of the festival will create further damage.
Hearings addressing the case will resume tomorrow.