The World Cultural Festival organised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar earlier this year has caused the permanent damage to the “entire floodplain area used for the main event site.”
A report in Indian Express said that a committee of experts, appointed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to assess the damage found that the floodplain had been “completely destroyed” causing “invisible loss of biodiversity” that “may never be able to return.”
The seven-member panel, headed by Shashi Shekhar, Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, submitted its report to the NGT on 28 July.
The panel said, “the entire floodplain area used for the main event site, i.e. between the DND flyover and Barapullah drain (on the right bank of river Yamuna) has been completely destroyed, not simply destroyed. The ground is now totally levelled, compacted and hardened, totally devoid of water bodies or depressions, and almost completely devoid of any vegetation (except a few large cattails at the base of of the DND flyover).”
The committee pointed out that its members were “prevented from making any study and were forced to retreat by the AOL volunteers on the site” on April 15, and that they visited the site again on June 6 “for a visual assessment”. It said its observations were supported by satellite images of the site taken on March 15 and May 10.
The event by Sri Sri, founder of Art of Living and known supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had courted huge controversy. The NGT had fined the self-claimed guru Rs 5 crore, which the AOL founder paid with visible reluctance.
His event had brought both Modi and his political rival, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, together on one platform causing huge criticism for the AAP leader.
Kejriwal had attended the closing ceremony of the World Culture Festival organised on Yamuna banks.
It was the first time that the Delhi chief minister was sharing stage with the BJP president Amit Shah, as both of whom lit lamps together before the start of the function.
Addressing the crowd, Kejriwal described the event ‘majestic’ attributing the ‘unprecedented success’ of the event to ‘divine intervention.’
He said, “This is amazing. 4500 artists performing at a stage spread over 7 acre is unprecedented. This is divine. Guruji (Sri Sri) is taking the message of spirituality and love to every corner of the world. That’s precisely why so many people from around the world have gathered here. World over, attempts are being made to create the atmosphere of hatred. But, I believe that you can’t defeat hatred with hatred. It can only be defeated by love and that’s precisely what Guru ji is doing today.”
An overwhelmed Kejriwal congratulated Sri Sri for having invited him for the event ‘enabling’ him to witness an ‘unprecedented’ gathering.
He said, “I want to congratulate Guru ji and thank him for inviting me here. I got an opportunity to be witness to such an unprecedented scene.”
Kejriwal showered praises on the Art of Living volunteers and credited Sri Sri with having cast a magic on them. He requested him to allow the volunteers to be used for various initiatives carried out by Delhi government.
He said, “Guruji, I’m very selfish. I want to ask two things from you. Your Art of Living volunteers are simply amazing and disciplined and civilised. Don’t know what magic you’ve cast on them that they are always smiling (loud cheers). Please provide us these volunteers to various initiatives that Delhi government carry out. Hope you will not disappoint me.”
Kejriwal also said that he would like to request Sri Sri and the Centre to come together so that ‘we can all join in to clean up Yamuna.’