The Art of Living Foundation Thursday said “no environmental clearance” is required to hold “social and religious” functions on floodplains, pointing out that “Kumbh Mela” too is organised on a floodplain.
The Art of Living also rejected an expert panel’s finding that its World Culture Festival in March had “completely destroyed” the “entire floodplain area used for the main event site”, causing “invisible loss of biodiversity” that “may never be able to return”. The Art of Living stated that “no wetland” ever existed on the Yamuna floodplain, where the main event took place.
”For a wetland, we need environmental clearance. And in case of floodplains, there is no need for any environmental clearance,” said Prabhakar Rao, an environment and landscape expert who was fielded by The Art of Living to counter the findings of the expert panel submitted to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on July 28.
“Kumbh Mela is conducted on a floodplain. All the yatras that are held on the riverside are also on floodplains. All social, political, religious functions can be conducted on floodplains, they don’t need any environmental clearance.”
Rao added that “cultivation and agricultural activity” had been taking place at site and “no wetland exists” based on “satellite evidence”, contrary to the findings of the expert panel.
“(In) the area where our event took place, there is considerable evidence that no wetland exists there. There is also presence of cultivated soil and evidence to show that agriculture activity took place in this area. We have examined satellite evidence from the year 2000, it is clearly evident there was no wetland here. Instead, agricultural activity took place in this area. Hence the land was used for cultivation and it was levelled long before event took place. All the ramps and roads have also been constructed in 2006-07,” he said.
Countering the findings of the seven-member expert committee, headed by Shashi Shekhar, Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, The Art of Living questioned the methodology it adopted.