At least Rs. 120 crore needed to restore Yamuna floodplain

Yamuna Delegates trying to protect themselves with plastic sheets as it rains during the opening day of the three-day long World Culture Festival on the banks of Yamuna River in New Delhi | PTI

A four-member expert committee set up by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to inspect the site on the Yamuna flood plain where the World Culture Festival is being organised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living Foundation, said it would require at least Rs.120 crore to restore the area to its original state.

The committee, in its report submitted to the green panel on February 21, had stated that the area has been cleared of all natural vegetation and the event would leave a "permanent footprint" on the floodplains of the Yamuna.

"The site has been cleared of all natural vegetation and consolidated with machinery. It appears that the site has been raised with the help of JCBs (mechanical excavators). A gigantic stage made of steel rods is under preparation. A huge amount of debris and construction waste has been dumped into the Yamuna main channel," said the report.

The expert committee was headed by Water Resources Secretary Shashim Shekhar. He was assisted by Prof A.K. Gosain of IIT-Delhi, Prof C.R. Babu and Prof Brij Gopal.

"Not just the Yamuna flood plains, but the flood plains of all the major rivers are ecologically senitive areas. In the first place, the organisers should not have selected the site. They should have gone to Jawaharlal Nehru stadim," Prof Babu told IANS.

"They have levelled and flattened the plains. Because of this the the plains have got compacted. Today (Wednesday) there was rain, but there will be no recharging of water into the groundwater. The rain water should have gone to the groundwater, but since the plains got compacted, it wouldn't," he added.

According to Babu, it would require at least Rs.120 crore to restore the Yamuna flood plains in its original position.

"During the preparation for event, they have damaged the wetlands, the aquatic plants and flora and fauna. The flora and fauna in the wetlands can also make sewage water clean but it has been damaged," he said.

"According to the norms, no activities should take place within 100 metres from the water course. But they have violated that too," he added.

Babu further said, "The damage has already been done. There was no point stopping the event at the last moment. So, we recommended NGT to slap a fine of at least Rs.120 crore on AoL for restoration work and ask them to convert the place into a biodiversity park."

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