As the National Green Tribunal (NGT) hears arguments over the environmental impact of the three-day World Culture Festival organised by the Art of Living Foundation, a monumental stage sprawled over 7 acres continues to be erected in keeping with the massive preparations at the venue, reportedly spread over 1,000 acres. An ornate gate right on the DND Flyway will lead top delegates to the venue, whereas 12 other entry points, several of them marked by LED screens for a spillover crowd, are being propped up.
With two days to go for the mega event, volunteers and workers speed up preparations while police personnel closely scrutinise the venue to plug security loopholes. Plush white sofas for VIP delegates and metal frame chairs for the rest of the audience were brought in and laid out on Tuesday, while more than 1,000 workers toil on the imposing main stage, erecting meticulously crafted canopies.
Men and machinery work tirelessly, leveling dirt tracks to turn them into approach roads. White cloth canopies dot the sprawling audience galleries for volunteers to be stationed during the event. A large stall for the sale of items from Sri Sri Ayurveda and Publications has been erected next to the parking lot, while separate enclosures for police deployment have propped up at entry-exit points.
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Organisers say more than 37,000 artistes are expected to perform at the festival, which includes 8,000 musicians playing 40 instruments in a musical symphony, 650 drummers from South Africa and several tribal artistes from states such as Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Sikkim and others.
“The stage has been designed to accommodate the massive performances in terms of its durability as well as space,” said a volunteer.
“More than 20,000 international guests are expected from South America, Mongolia, Russia, United States, Europe, Japan, Malaysia, Australia, Pakistan among others,” said an official statement.
Locals in the area stroll in from their neighbouring hutments, crossing the pontoon bridge, to take in the spectacle all day long.
“I have been coming here almost every evening over the past week or so. It is a nice walk and the preparations are overwhelming. We may not be able to come here later. Most residents in the neighbourhood have been taking their morning and evening walks here now,” says Ram Nishad, a migrant farmer from Uttar Pradesh who lives across the Yamuna, as he marvels at the preparations.