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AOL thoughtless environmental destruction: respect for nature is devotion - The Hindu

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Published: March 12, 2016 01:54 IST | Updated: March 12, 2016 02:55 IST March 12, 2016

Respect for nature is devotion

The grandiose spectacle that the Art of Living Foundation has organised on a thousand-acre site on the floodplain of a river in Delhi to
demonstrate humanitarianism and the oneness of cultures will go down as a spectacular example of thoughtless environmental destruction.
The Central and Delhi governments have, in a display of extraordinary non-application of mind, allowed a private entity to take over part of
the Yamuna floodplain, an area with well-known ecological vulnerabilities, for a show. The low priority accorded in recent times to
environmental impacts of official decisions is manifest here: large parts of the biodiversity-rich floodplain have been irresponsibly levelled,
provision made for approach roads and vehicle parking, and a massive, 40-foot-high stage with garish symbols built for the event. The Union
Ministry of Culture, the Uttar Pradesh and Delhi governments, the Sangeet Natak Akademi, the Lalit Kala Akademi and other organisations
that have supported the three-day extravaganza should worry that they have lent their credentials to the creation of a large and destructive
footprint for the river. The Yamuna is a major resource for Delhi, and there is a great deal of scientific literature on why it should be protected
and rejuvenated for the benefit of the national capital region. Studies done on Delhis water needs indicate that there are twice as many
people living in the city than it can support based on carrying capacity norms. The imperative therefore should be to help the Yamuna use its
full potential of recharging its aquifers using monsoon flood flows across a generous one-kilometre width, bringing more precious water to
It should surprise everyone that the NDA government, which has been making a high-profile campaign of river-cleansing projects, allowed
unregulated construction activity on the Yamuna floodplain and removal of vegetation without so much as a sound environmental impact
assessment. Deploying the Army to put up long bridges was also unwarranted. The National Green Tribunal, which heard a petition against
the holding of the so-called world culture festival, noted that the Art of Living Foundation had failed to submit even a detailed project report
on the works it was undertaking after it obtained permission from the Delhi Development Authority last year. Faced with a Rs.5-crore initial
fine imposed by the NGT, the head of the Foundation, Sri Sri Ravishankar, first decided to brazen it out and not remit the penalty, although
saner counsel seems to have prevailed. The NGT has rightly ordered an exhaustive review by a special committee of the damage caused to the
river and its floodplain. The only option for the Foundation should be to meet the full cost of scientific restoration, consistent with the
polluter-pays principle. Having claimed the participation of 3.5 million people from 155 countries, it should not be difficult for the organisers
to mobilise the funds needed to restore the ecology of an invaluable part of the countrys natural heritage.
Printable version | Mar 12, 2016 4:29:38 PM |
The Hindu 12-03-2016