Preparations for the three-day Art of Living event on the banks of Yamuna have reportedly forced birds to migrate from the area.
As the site has been cleared of all bushes and vegetation, species such as larks, pipits, warblers and other rare birds found in this zone are rapidly disappearing because of the destruction of the riverine habitat.
The World Culture Festival (WCF) being organised by the Art of Living Foundation on March 11-13, expected to see a gathering of 35 lakh people, has spread out over an area on 1,000-odd acres on the ecologically fragile Yamuna floodplain.
Bharati Chaturvedi, director of the Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group and an avid birder, said many birds such as river lapwing, red avadavat, warblers, yellow-bellied prinia, oriental skylark and striated babbler, among others, have been forced to migrate.
“Grasslands are one of the most vulnerable ecosystems. The entire event site has been levelled and the small water bodies that existed earlier have been filled up and the natural vegetation like reeds along the sandy banks has vanished. This is breeding season but this disruption may result in no breeding at all for many species,” Chaturvedi said.
A plea by Yamuna activist Manoj Misra has challenged the event in the National Green Tribunal and the next hearing of the case will take place early next week.
Birder Sunita Chaudhry says every winter “hundreds and hundreds of migratory ducks” come to the Yamuna and they roost and feed on the banks.
“Different types of storks, waders, diving ducks are usually spotted here but they have all flown away. Every few years, rare birds like crested pochards are seen. The extremely rare white-tailed stonechat and yellow-bellied prinia breed in those reeds by the river. This destruction is absolutely outrageous,” Chaudhry said.
An NGT panel headed by Shashi Shekhar, secretary of the Union water resources ministry, recently, in its report has clearly mentioned the devastation on the floodplain, which includes trees “removed or lopped”.
“In this entire area (western side of the river), the floodplain has been destroyed. The natural vegetation consisting of reeds, and trees have been removed, and the large number of birds and other natural life that was supported by the floodplain has vanished due to this destruction,” the report says.