Tuesday, February 16, 2016

1,000 acres of Yamuna's active floodplain "illegally" cleared of vegetation for Art of Living event, President told

Construction underway for the Art of Living event
By Our Representative
Top environmentalists, social activists and former bureaucrats have taken strong exception to “clearing, compacting, dumping of earth and construction underway over some 1,000 acres of active flood plain of river Yamuna in Delhi” for the 35th anniversary of the Art of Living Foundation in March 2016.
Especially referring to the proposed participation the proposed participation of President Pranab Kumar Mukherjee in the “planned” celebration of a private organization run by Sri Sri Ravishankar, they have said in a letter that under the “normal circumstances” the event would not raise “any issue of concern.”
Addressing their letter to the President, with copies being sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Delhi chief minister Avrind Kejriwal, the letter says, the circumstances are different, as “the matter being sub-judice at the National Green Tribunal (NGT), and the event is being planned “in violation of the NGT judgment of January 13, 2015, making his participation “appear to lend legitimacy to an illegal activity.”
The area around the event cleared of natural vegetation
Among those who have signed the letter are EAS Sarma, former secretary, Government of India; Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao Andolan; Madhu Bhaduri, former ambassador of India; Dr Latha Anantha, River Research Centre, Thrissur; Dr Sudhirendar Sharma, Ecological Foundation, Delhi; and Himanshu Thakkar, South Asia Network on Dams River and People.
Providing a pictorial report about what has happened on the 1,000 acre land, the letter says, it “highlights through comparative photographs of September 15, 2015 and February 5, 2016, how a verdant flood plain has got systematically destroyed and is being converted for the event.”
Pointing out that the Yamuna floodplains have already suffered “many encroachments and this additional encroachment will only make the situation worse”, the letter says, “The event might be for few days but the devastation that results from its preparatory and operational phase would outlast decades in terms of river Yamuna's health, which already is in no great shape.”
Vegetation next to the river before it was cleared
This, the letter says, it clear from the dimension of the event, “where some 35 lakh persons are expected to participate and a stage spread over some seven acres is planned to be constructed”, adding, “It is clear that current event is destroying the Yamuna floodplains and all the associated services it provides.”
“Some opine that but it is just a small fraction of a large area. But a violation of rule of law remains a violation, however small, is shown to be and sets a bad precedent”, the letter says, quoting the National Water Policy: “Conservation of rivers, river corridors, water bodies and infrastructure should be undertaken in a scientifically planned manner through community participation…”
Insisting that in the current case, “the National Water Policy stands violated”, the letter says, “Floodplain waters contain at least 100 times more species than do river channels, and there is growing evidence that many, if not all, of the species that live in rivers depend in some way on floodplains.”
It reminds the President, “Floodplains are nature’s water treatment works, removing vast quantities of pollutants from inland river waters. They also provide rivers with the building blocks of life, which are used by everything from bacteria to fish”.

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