More than a week after the promised deadline, the stage built for the Art of Living’s (AOL) World Culture Festival has finally been dismantled. Over the past two months, commuters driving down the Delhi-Noida-Direct Flyway (DND) could not miss the stage, which stood tall on the Yamuna floodplains.
The area is now barricaded and boards that stated, ‘Property of the Delhi Development Authority, trespassers will be prosecuted’ can be seen across the venue. Vegetation that the foundation denied having cleared for the festival is slowly growing back.
Incidentally, it was the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) that had given the AOL more than 60 hectares for seating, parking space, kiosks, toilets and pontoon bridges. The land was given to the foundation on the condition that no permanent construction would take place.
The land falls within the Zone O, which is a “restricted” but not a “prohibited” zone, according to the DDA.
While the stage has been dismantled, pipes are strewn across the area. Bharat Singh Yadav, a labourer who helped dismantle the stage, said, “The work was taking time but over the last two days, more trucks arrived to collect the pipes. As a result, we had to work two extra hours over the past four days.”
One of the pontoon bridges constructed by the Uttar Pradesh government has also been dismantled. Rajesh Kumar, one of the workers, said, “The bridge took a lot of time to clear because the workforce reduced significantly once the festival ended. I expect that it will reduce even more now. As a result, the pontoons might be left behind as transporting them is time-consuming when there are fewer helping hands.”
The Rs 5 crore initial compensation imposed on AOL by the National Green Tribunal was supposed to be paid on April 1.
However, the foundation filed an application seeking permission to submit a bank guarantee in place of the payment of the balance amount of Rs 4.75 crore On March 10, AOL had paid Rs 25 lakh as a show of faith.
The principal committee constituted by the NGT to inspect the floodplains is yet to visit the site and conduct its inspection.
The committee was to inspect the site four weeks after the event’s conclusion and determine the compensation that AOL is liable to pay.
It is also expected to chart out a comprehensive plan for the rejuvenation of the land used for the event. In its report on February 20, the committee had recommended a Rs 120 crore compensation.
The compensation and other details will be determined at a two-day hearing on April 21 and 22 by the NGT.