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‘The Art of Living’ Creators Promote Incessant Environmental Damage: WCF, 2016

A mega cultural event named ‘World Culture Festival’ organised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s ‘Art of Living’ foundation got the permission to utilize the banks of Yamuna as their venue  by The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday after slapping an initial fine of Rs.5 crore on it.

Here is all that is wrong with the festival and why it should not have been approved

Why NGT found it alarming in the first place:

This is what the report of a four-member committee of the NGT led by Shashi Shekhar, secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, found:

• The entire area of the flood plain between river Yamuna and DND Flyover leveled
• Small water bodies that existed earlier have been filled up and all natural vegetation has been removed. Most of the trees have been removed or chopped
• Construction debris dumped on some of the roads constructed along the river margin for the festival
• Two ramps have been constructed joining the DND flyover with flood plains for providing access to VIPs up to the stage constructed on flood plains
• One pontoon bridge has been constructed on river Yamuna and another under construction. Few more are proposed on the Yamuna and Barapullah drain (a total of five)
• Parking sites and 650 portable toilets on both eastern and western sides of the river. Thousands of vehicles are expected to be parked
• An enormous stage (about 1,200 feet long x 200 feet wide x 40 feet high) is being erected with steel pipes, wooden planks and fibre glass domes, where thousands of artists are expected to perform. The site is littered with construction material
• The western side of the river — 50 to 60 hectares floodplain is completely destroyed; natural vegetation comprising reeds, shrubs, trees, etc has been completely removed. Large numbers of birds and other natural life on the floodplain have vanished

Potential long-term damage:

• The site is a meeting point of Barapullah drain and river Yamuna. It’ll get blocked
• The floodplains where the Yamuna water gets recharged will get damaged
• The natural life in this bio-diversity region will either move out or perish
• The birds will leave the place
• Have cascading effect on nearby Okhla Bird Sanctuary

Few more highlights:

The Delhi government also told the National Green Tribunal that the event has no police or fire safety clearances.
Over 1,000 acres on the river banks have been converted into a makeshift village for Art of Living’s three-day World Cultural Festival that will feature yoga and meditation sessions, peace prayers and cultural performances.
A seven-acre stage has been set up for over 35,000 artistes and visitors from 150 countries. Art of Living has denied any major construction on the river banks but bridges and mobile towers have been built and dirt tracks and a parking area are also coming up, according to a blueprint accessed by NDTV.
Environmentalists argue that the festival will do serious damage to the delicate ecosystem of the river Yamuna and cause irreversible damage to the flood plains.
There are also questions about the number of people attending the event. Art of Living claimed that it expects two lakh people, but the court said posters had talked of 35 lakh visitors.

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As the event is now taking place after all the climate damage and changes already happening around the world, this festival is an add-on to it. The reason why this festival is being held is because the Art of Living foundation has completed 35 years of its existence. Wondering what art will we live with after the festival (maybe the art of living with adverse environmental conditions is what they are trying to teach us through this).

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