Vikas Kumar/Catch News
Sri Sri Ravishankar is set probably for a Guiness Record. But for a cost.
The spiritual guru's Art of Living Foundation will mark its 35th anniversary by hosting a cultural fest on 11-13 March, which is expected to attract more than 3.5 million.
There will be 25,000 artistes and 8,000 musicians at a seven-acre arena. The problem is, that arena is being built at an ecologically sensitive zone - the banks of the Yamuna flowing through the Capital.
Ever since preparations for the event started beside the river, environmentalists have requested the foundation to shift its venue to avoid irreparable ecological damage. And after repeated requests, Manoj Mishra, the convenor of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, petitioned the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to restrict construction at the site where the event was to be held.
The NGT sent notices on Thursday to the Delhi government, Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and Art of Living (AOL) to submit documents on the basis of which the permission was granted for the event. It also asked an IIT consortium to inspect the site and submit a status report. On Friday, the NGT asked for a fresh round of inspection.
AOL representatives said they took permission from all authorities before starting the construction.
According to Mishra's petition, construction on the river bed, covering 25 acres, has started resulting in a lot of debris being dumped, violating various NGT orders.
He notified the tribunal that the massive clearing, levelling, dumping and construction will hurt the environment and ecological landscape of the region. Here are some of their
"We have consulted the Ministry of Environment, which said its approval was not required. DDA, the Uttar Pradesh Irrigation Authority and have all given a no-objection certificates," said AOL's Gautam Gir.
He said the foundation would ensure there's no environmental impact: "Environment protection is a major area of concern for the Art of Living foundation."
"River plains are an integral part of a river, connecting biodiversity. It is not a wasteland that can be encroached upon. This event has resulted in shifting of earth from one place to another, including into the course of the river," said Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP).
"Laying the foundation of such a gigantic stage itself has a lot of environmental implications," he added.
Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan also raised questions:
Ironically, the foundation five years ago launched a Clean Yamuna campaign. Ravishankar the had said: "A staggering 3.6 billion tonne untreated sewerage flows daily into the Yamuna, which supplies 60% of the region's water."
AOL's Jal Jagruti Abhiyan in Maharashtra focuses on the revival and de-silting of water bodies.
Catch visited the site where the construction of roads, massive parking spaces and gigantic structures were under way.
"The loss of the floodplains is irreparable." Mishra fervently said.
While explaining the importance of conserving and protecting a river system, Ravishankar had said: "We always used the water of holy rivers like Ganga and Yamuna to purify ourselves, but today we have reached a point where we have to purify this water. So we are waging a war against the pollution in the Yamuna."
Let's hope the guru's words were not mere homilies.
Edited by Joyjeet Das