Mega stench after mega show: smell of urine and garbage abound on Yamuna bank

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Photo: Vikas Kumar

Mega stench after mega show: smell of urine and garbage abound on Yamuna bank

i

Photo: Vikas Kumar

Mega stench after mega show: smell of urine and garbage abound on Yamuna bank

i

Photo: Vikas Kumar

Mega stench after mega show: smell of urine and garbage abound on Yamuna bank

i

Photo: Vikas Kumar

Mega stench after mega show: smell of urine and garbage abound on Yamuna bank

i

Photo: Vikas Kumar

Mega stench after mega show: smell of urine and garbage abound on Yamuna bank

i

Photo: Vikas Kumar

Mega stench after mega show: smell of urine and garbage abound on Yamuna bank

i

Photo: Vikas Kumar

Mega stench after mega show: smell of urine and garbage abound on Yamuna bank

i

Photo: Vikas Kumar

Mega stench after mega show: smell of urine and garbage abound on Yamuna bank

i

Photo: Vikas Kumar

Mega stench after mega show: smell of urine and garbage abound on Yamuna bank

i

Photo: Vikas Kumar

Mega stench after mega show: smell of urine and garbage abound on Yamuna bank

i

Photo: Vikas Kumar

Mega stench after mega show: smell of urine and garbage abound on Yamuna bank

i

Photo: Vikas Kumar

Mega stench after mega show: smell of urine and garbage abound on Yamuna bank

i

Photo: Vikas Kumar

Mega stench after mega show: smell of urine and garbage abound on Yamuna bank

i

Photo: Vikas Kumar

Mega stench after mega show: smell of urine and garbage abound on Yamuna bank

i

Photo: Vikas Kumar

Mega stench after mega show: smell of urine and garbage abound on Yamuna bank

i

Photo: Vikas Kumar

Mega stench after mega show: smell of urine and garbage abound on Yamuna bank

i

Photo: Vikas Kumar

ART OF LIVING AFTERMATH

Mega stench after mega show: smell of urine and garbage abound on Yamuna bank

Nihar Gokhale & Vikas Kumar

Urine. That's the smell currently greeting visitors to the venue of Art of Living's World Culture Festival.

The three-day gala, which ended on 13 March, saw a footfall of over 2 lakh visitors from scores of countries across the world.

But the aftermath is the smell of pee, which emanates from about 15 portable toilets near the entrance, beside the Delhi-Noida Direct Flyway.

Also read - Between the lines: NGT didn't stop #AOL event, but there's more to its order

"Smell this. It is an unprecedented mixture of the smell of 128 countries," a guard sarcastically commented. He has been posted near the toilets for two days.

The WCF was held on Yamuna's floodplains, a fragile wetland ecology. The festival was challenged in the National Green Tribunal, which accepted that the event had damaged the floodplains, but allowed it against an initial compensation of Rs 5 crore.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of the Art of Living, publicly refused to pay the fee, later agreeing to pay Rs 25 lakh as the first instalment.

Now, a final compensation would be calculated based on an assessment by a committee consisting of three scientists and led by Shashi Shekhar, water resources secretary.

Kites feast on garbage

At the location, Catch found a veritable mess. And it wasn't just sewage. Disposable cutlery and literally thousands of 'Sri Sri' branded water bottles were strewn across the floodplains. There were also thousands of flyers advertising Art of Living and the festival.

In fact, there was so much garbage, and so few people, that about a dozen kites (scavenger birds) circling the area and feasting on it.

All this waste was being taken away by Pom Pom, a waste recycling service provider. But the waste was not being segregated into wet and dry, an important condition for recycling.

Workers at the location said the waste trucks were destined straight for the Ghazipur garbage dump. The workers, who belong to the contractor BVG India, said they have been living at the site since 9 March, with no bathing facilities.

The ones doing the waste segregation were, in fact, children from nearby slums. Aged around 10, the kids were picking up 'Sri Sri' water bottles and cardboard packaging, and said they'll sell them for Rs 10 per kg.

Also read - The art of disarray: a 16-year-old dancer's ordeal at Sri Sri's mega event

Where are the volunteers?

While some of the wooden props are being set to Bhopal to be used "in weddings", where the huge domes on the stage will go is an open question. The domes are made of plaster of paris, which is not biodegradable and not reusable, as it is permanently moulded in that particular shape.

"Plaster of paris was used to make the props. There are PVC, plastic and flex banners everywhere. Is this what Sri Sri calls 'eco-friendly material'?," asked Vimlendu Jha, an activist working on Yamuna conservation, who was at the site surveying the damage.

"And where are the thousands of volunteers?" he wondered

Indeed, just about 30-50 volunteers from Art of Living were seen cleaning up the mess, against the thousand or so promised by Sri Sri.

All the volunteers Catch spoke to appeared to have come on their own, saying that "Guruji had made an appeal". Some came from nearby Siddharth Extension, while some came from faraway Pune and Bangalore.

They were optimistic that more would turn up tomorrow. Shivali, a volunteer from Noida, said: "We are expecting around 200 tomorrow. After all, it is a voluntary act, and is not forced."

More in Catch -

Saffron trumps green: How 'AOL vs environment' debate turned communal

Red flagged: NGT ignored reports citing damage the AOL event would cause

Nihar Gokhale & Vikas Kumar