An expert committee has informed the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that it would take around 10 years and an amount of Rs 13.29 crore to rehabilitate the Yamuna floodplains, "destroyed" in the aftermath of a massive cultural programme organised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living (AOL) Foundation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also attended the event.
The expert committee, headed by Secretary of Ministry of Water Resources Shashi Shekhar, told the NGT that restoration work would have to be carried out on a large scale to compensate for the damage done to the Yamuna floodplains.
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"It has been estimated that approximately 120 hectares (about 300 acres) of floodplains of 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 at different magnitudes," the committee said.
In 2016, the NGT had allowed Sri Sri's AOL to hold a three-day event, 'World Culture Festival' on the Yamuna floodplains. The green panel had said they were helpless and could not ban the event due to "fait accompli". However, it had imposed a compensation of Rs 5 crore on the foundation for the cultural programme's impact on the floodplains and the environment.
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The four-member committee had also asked the AOL Foundation to pay reparations of Rs 100-120 crore for causing "extensive and severe damage" to the Yamuna floodplains. Another seven-member expert committee, appointed by the NGT to take stock of the damage, had said the cultural programme had "completely destroyed" the Yamuna riverbed. The floodplain area between DND flyover and the Barapulla drain (on the right bank of river Yamuna) used for the main event had been completely destroyed.
"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. 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 amount 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 committee had said.
It added that "the floodplain has lost almost all of its natural vegetation (like trees, shrubs, tall grasses, aquatic vegetation including water hyacinth)...(which) provides habitat, food and sites for breeding/nesting to a large number and kinds of animals including birds, fishes, frogs, turtles, insects and innumerable bottom and mud-dwelling organisms...these organisms were rendered homeless, driven away by the intense activity and many were consigned to their graves under the debris."