The World Culture Festival was given permission by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), with some terms and conditions. The Art of Living Organisation is supposed to take permission from the fire department before initiating the event and even the structure of the stage and panel had to be checked and granted approval. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was dissatisfied because of NGT’s diktat and expressed that he would appeal to the court to oppose this. He tweeted saying, “We are not happy with the decision, we will appeal”.What is the entire fuss about?
The National Green Tribunal has issued a notice to seek answers on this matter till 11 February to the Delhi Government, Delhi Development Authority and the Art of Living Organization.Here are the details of the entire controversy surrounding the event:The notice issued by the bench headed by the chairperson of NGT, Justice Swatantra Kumar issued a notice to the Delhi government, DDA and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar after hearing the appeal of Yamuna Jiyo Abhiyan’s director and environmentalist Manoj Mishra.Manoj Mishra says, “Yamuna floods plain is a home to biodiversities. But the land has been leveled up and the forests surrounding the area have been burnt down to organize the event which has in turn destroyed the land around Yamuna forever.”
The accusation is that DDA went against the NGT’s orders of ‘Active Yamuna Floods Plain’ to grant approval for organizing the event.The construction work for the event comes under the 10 year tenure for the flood area whereas the NGT has prohibited any kind of construction or organization of event on the area from the past 25 years.The Principal Commissoner of DDA, JP Aggarwal however has a different approach. He argues that Akshardham temple and DTC’s Millennium bus depot have been constructed over Yamuna’s area. That didn’t cause any destruction.He also added, “There are a lot of unauthorized colonies built over Yamuna’s banks, people have inhabited the place, agricultural practices are going on. If this is not harming the environment, then how will the organization of the festival will make any difference?”According to the website of the festival 35 lakh participants are expected to participate in the event from 155 countries. But, only 2-3 lakhs of people were expected to join in according to the institution’s directive presented in the court, but the scale at which the event is organized tells a different story.
The director of Art of Living, Gautam Vig looks satisfied with the preparations for the event. He says that they have followed DDA’s orders for authorized construction and haven’t dumped anything in Yamuna. He also says, “We have been accused of dumping garbage but on the contrary we have cleaned the garbage worth 500 trucks and I have always informed the DDA on 14th December about this on a letter head.”But the pictures tell a different story. The signs of garbage dumping on the area are evident which are being used to fill the holes on Yamuna’s banks. The road roller has been used over the land to level it up later on. There are even signs of altering the direction of Yamuna’s main stream too.
The NGT asked a team of DDA officials headed by IIT Delhi’s Professor, AK Gosain to submit a report on the construction work taking place on Yamuna’s bank on 16 February.Both the reports were submitted to NGT on 19 February. Afterwards, a principle committee headed by Shashi Shekhar along with the Environment and Forest Ministry were sent by the NGT to enquire about the construction process. The reports were submitted on 23 and 26 February.
All the reports agree on common grounds that the rules were flouted for the construction process and Yamuna’s biodiversity was put at stake.The committee headed by Shashi Shekhar demand a penalty of 100-120 crores from the organizers of the event so that the garbage dumped on the banks can be cleared and the land can be revived.
On the other hand, Professor Gosain said in his report that the organization of the event is on such large scale that it is impossible to capture the ongoings on camera. He says to grant approval for the organization of this event will set a bad example for the nation.