An Ecosystem Annihilated
The brazen levelling of the Yamuna floodplains for the World Culture Festival has caused possibly irrevocable damage to the ecosystem of the plains according to the seven-member expert committee appointed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT). Hardnews had reported on this issue extensively in March and had predicted that extensive environmental damage could occur due to the festival
Hardnews Bureau Delhi
74 species of macrophytes, 90 species of phytoplankton, 62 species of zooplankton, 55 species of benthos, 36 fish species and 131 bird species. This in tangible terms is the cost extracted by Sri Sri Ravishankars ‘World Culture Festival’. The Yamuna floodplains that used to harbour a fragile ecosystem have been irrevocably damaged, all so that the Art Of Living could conduct what essentially amounted to a vanity exercise. According to a report filed by the National Green Tribunal expert committee constituted to assess the damage caused by the event, “the 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.”
Hardnews had reported in March prior to the festival that it could have long-term consequences for the ecology of the river basin. In an interview with the magazine, Ravi Agarwal of Toxics Link had presciently talked about this, “Wetland ecology supports a particular kind of life structure which has an intimate relationship with both the water and the soil. The vegetation in wetlands is very different from the vegetation of a forest, so there are different types of trees that one would see here than in a forest and smaller animals who are a part of this complex biodiversity. The organisers of the World Cultural Festival do not understand wetland ecology. And when they say they haven’t cut any trees, it shows a limited understanding of what constitutes both nature and its destruction. The trees that they are cutting aren’t the same ones found in Corbett national park. If the vegetation they are destroying doesn’t fit their understanding of forest cover, it doesn’t mean that it is not significant. Brij Gopal, one of India’s foremost wetland ecologists, has alluded to this in the National Green Tribunal Report about how due to the event they have flattened the land and by doing that they have destroyed it. Their persistence to carry on with the festival is proof that they don’t understand this sort of science.”
The myopia of the organisers has ensured that the floodplains will take years to recover. The floodplains are important from an ecological perspective primarily because they control floods, help groundwater recharge, support vegetation, fish and other biodiversity. Overall, the floodwater retention capacity of the area has been severely compromised. Instead of the floodplains what we now have is a large swathe of flatlands that are not conducive to the birds, fishes, frogs, turtles, insects and innumerable bottom and mud-dwelling organisms (molluscs, earthworms, insects, and various other micro and macroscopic invertebrates) which used to thrive in the plains prior to the levelling.
The apathy and bellicosity of AOL can be gauged from the fact that it has asserted in various press statements issued in the past week that the Yamuna floodplain is not a floodplain to begin with. It must be remembered that AOL had earlier defiantly refused to pay the fine imposed on it by the authorities. The NGT report will not be the last word on the issue as AOL has asked for the entire committee to be reconstituted in its entirety.