How big is the area that the Art of Living has occupied on Yamuna floodplains for its World Culture Festival? The answer depends on which side is answering the question.
The organisation had sought clearances for 97.4 acres, as per the DDA. However, the pamphlets and officials statements by the organisation claim the area of the venue to be 1,000 acres.
But after a controversy erupted over the use of floodplains for construction and other activities, the Art of Living (AOL) on Monday said it did not use any extra space than the area allotted to it.
AOL’s counsel Saraswati Akshama Nath contradicted the claims in the pamphlets. “We are spread only over an area of 97 acres. We have not occupied any area that was not allotted to us,” she said.
A petition against the event is being heard in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and the next hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday.
The Delhi Development Authority (DDA), which was pulled up by the NGT last Monday for giving permission to AOL to hold the festival, refused permission twice – once in February, 2015 and the next in November 2015 – before giving in.
The DDA allotted an area of 60.34 acres. The remaining 37.06 acres was allotted by the UP irrigation department. DDA’s lawyer at the National Green Tribunal alleged that the organisers had spread to area for which permission was not given, a charge refuted by AOL.
A pamphlet and a fact sheet shared with the Hindustan Times on March 2, clearly states that the area for the venue is 1,000 acres.
According to Nath, kachcha roads have been constructed to get people from one part of the floodplain to the other. She did not comment on whether the area of the roads, along with the allotted 97.4 acres, makes the total area 1,000 acres.
The initial idea was to use the UP land for parking. This plan seems to have been shelved for now. The DDA land is being used for the 7-acre stage and seating.
Sources in the DDA said the organisers have exaggerated the area as well as the number of participants in a bid to create a world record for the biggest gathering in the world.
The two pontoon bridges, built by the Indian Army, have to bear the load of the 35 lakh people that the organisers say will attend the festival.
Sources said the capacity of the two bridges is only 80,000 people in one day, a far cry from the numbers that the organisation is expecting to attend. A pontoon bridge may collapse if the load increases.