Rehabilitation of Yamuna floodplains, "destroyed" due to the 'World Culture Festival' extravaganza organized by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living (AOL) on the banks last year, will cost Rs 13.29 crore and take almost 10 years, an expert committee has told the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
The expert committee, headed by Shashi Shekhar, Secretary of Ministry of Water Resources, has informed the NGT that major restoration work has to be carried out to compensate for the damage to Yamuna floodplains.
"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 told the green panel.
The Art of Living said it will study the report and then decide on further action.
"Our legal team will study the report and decide on the appropriate future course of action: Kedar Desai, spokesperson, The Art of Living, was quoted as saying by ANI.
The NGT had last year allowed AOL to hold three- day cultural extravaganza 'World Culture Festival' of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living on the Yamuna flood plains 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 impact on the environment.
Initially, a four-member committee had recommended that 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 organised on Yamuna has "completely destroyed" the riverbed.
The committee had observed that entire floodplain area used for the main event site between DND flyover and the Barapulla drain (on the right bank of river Yamuna) has been completely destroyed, not simply damaged.
"The committee observes that entire floodplain area used for the main event site i.e. between 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," the expert committee, set up by the NGT, told a bench headed by Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar.
"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," it had said.
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 provides habitat to large number of animals, insects and mud-dwelling organisms.
"The physical damage in the floodplain and its wetlands include a change in topography which has a direct bearing on the diversity of habitats. Construction of ramps and roads, filling up of water bodies and levelling of the ground together with compaction have almost completely eliminated the natural physical features and the diversity of habitats," the report had said.
It has said that it will cost Rs 13.29 crore and take almost 10 years to rehabilitate the river floodplain.
(With PTI inputs)