Rehabilitation of the Yamuna floodplains, "destroyed" due to a cultural extravaganza organised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living Foundation (AOL), will cost Rs 13.29 crore and take almost 10 years, an expert committee has told the National Green Tribunal.
The expert committee, headed by Shashi Shekhar, Secretary in the Ministry of Water Resources, has informed the green panel that major restoration work has to be carried out to compensate for the damage to the Yamuna floodplains.
The report said:
It has been estimated that approximately 120 hectares (about 300 acres) of floodplains to the west (right bank) of the river Yamuna and about 50 hectares (120 acres) floodplains of the eastern side (left bank) of the river have been adversely impacted ecologically by different magnitudes.
The green body had last year allowed AOL to hold a three-day 'World Culture Festival' on the Yamuna floodplains while expressing its helplessness in banning the event because of "fait accompli".
It, however, had imposed Rs 5 crore as interim environment compensation on the foundation for the event's adverse impact.
Initially, a four-member committee had recommended that the AOL Foundation should pay Rs 100-120 crore as restoration cost for “extensive and severe damage” to the floodplains of Yamuna river.
Later, a seven-member expert committee had told NGT that the event has "completely destroyed" the riverbed.
The committee had observed that the entire floodplain area used for the main event site between the DND flyover and the Barapulla drain (on the right bank of river Yamuna) has been completely destroyed, not simply damaged.
"The ground is now totally levelled, compacted and hardened and is totally devoid of water bodies or depressions and almost completely devoid of any vegetation,” it said.
The area where the grand stage was erected (and the area immediately behind it) is heavily consolidated – most likely with a different kind of external material used to level the ground and compress it.
"Huge amounts of earth and debris have been dumped to construct the ramps for access from the DND flyover and from the two pontoon bridges across the Barapulla drain,” the expert committee added.
The committee, in its 47-page report, has said that due to the three-day event, the floodplain has lost “almost all its natural vegetation” like trees, shrubs, tall grasses, aquatic vegetation, including water hyacinth, which provide a habitat to a large number of animals, insects and mud-dwelling organisms.
It has said that it will cost Rs 13.29 crore and take almost 10 years to rehabilitate the river floodplain.
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