A committee, set up to submit an action plan for restoring Yamuna floodplains, today told the National Green Tribunal that there was no compaction of the soil on the site where the Art of Living’s (AOL) three-day cultural extravaganza was held last year.
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.
The three-member committee, which was formed by NGT after submission of report by the larger panel, today said the land where AOL’s function was held last year was found to be fully covered with grass and some saplings of tree species.
“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 majority of the areas where function was held. No significant size of the wetland/water body was noticed by the committee in the area used by AOL,” the committee said in its report submitted before a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said.
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” is seen on the site prior to the event.
“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.
“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 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,” it said.
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.
“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. 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 panel said.
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.
The matter is fixed for hearing on August 4.
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 last year, would cost Rs 42.02 crore besides additional ancillary expenses.
It had suggested that there would be two components of rehabilitation plan — physical and biological– and they would cost Rs 28.73 crore and Rs l3.29 crore respectively.
The seven-member committee had observed that entire floodplain area used for the main event site between DND flyover and the Barapulla drain (on the right bank of river Yamuna) has been completely destroyed, not simply damaged.