Minister and Delhi Jal Board chairperson Kapil Mishra on Monday lent his support to the controversial Art of Living event to be held on the Yamuna floodplains from March 11-13.
Environmentalists have flayed the 35th anniversary celebrations of the spiritual organisation saying it will be disastrous for the river and have approached the National Green Tribunal to seek a stay. The three-day cultural festival will see 35,000 musicians perform simultaneously on a seven-acre stage. Over 35 lakh people are expected at the event.
“I am supporting the event and I think more events should happen on banks of the river,” Mishra told HT. He, however, maintained that it was his personal opinion. “It is a good idea. Lakhs of people will come to the Yamuna and build a connection. They will see its condition and will put pressure on officials and us politicians to make sure we clean and revive the river,” Mishra tweeted. “The construction at the site is temporary and the event will not damage the river. As the tourism minister, it is a matter of pride that people and artistes from all over the world will be coming to my city,” he added.
Mishra met Sri Sri Ravishankar, Art of Living founder, last week.
Huge machines have cleared over 1,000 acres where tents, hutments, pontoon bridges and the gigantic stage are coming up. HT had earlier reported that road rollers and JCBs can be seen at work. Vast stretches have been cleared and work is going on right on the river channel. Even a pontoon bridge has been built to bring people from the other side of the Yamuna.
The Art of Living has defended the celebration on the floodplain and a spokesperson said it has not done any construction/concretization at the site.
“Further, we have used only eco-friendly material like wood, mud, cloth, and scaffolding towards building a temporary stage for the purpose of holding a three-day festival. When the site of the festival was identified there was already a massive dumping of construction debris at the site. The Art of Living started the process of removal/clearing of the said debris. We have not blocked any channel of river Yamuna by throwing any debris into it. Whatever debris is there is what was already lying there/brought in by the local villagers to create a sort of passage for their movement. The construction debris/malba was lying there from before and the rest of it may be from the adjoining construction activity. We have not cleared any greenery or levelled the area by dumping any construction debris as alleged. We have not made any permanent structure or any construction at the site and undertake to clear all the temporary structures being set up immediately after the event is over,” a statement issued by the organisation says.