Art of Living's 3-day World Culture Festival is to open this Friday
New Delhi: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's mass festival on the banks of the river Yamuna will go ahead as planned despite worries over a shaky stage and environmental damage. A separate enclosure for Prime Minister Narendra Modi is among the adjustments that the guru's Art of Living foundation has to make. The National Green Tribunal has also imposed fines and conditions.
Here are 10 developments in the story:
Art of Living has been fined five crores by the green court, which acted on a petition that said the three-day "World Culture Festival" should be cancelled as it will severely damage the fragile ecosystem of the Yamuna river.
The tribunal noted that there is evidence that the "flood plains have been drastically tampered with, the natural flow of the river has been destroyed and reeds, grasses and natural vegetation on the river bed have been removed." Art of Living, which told the court it was investing 26 crores in the festival, has been asked to pay for its restoration.
On Friday, PM Modi is to open the festival that will feature yoga and meditation sessions, peace prayers and cultural performances. A separate enclosure is being set up for him close to the gate but amid security concerns, it is not clear whether he will finally attend.
A civic team has told the police that the seven-acre stage set up for over 35,000 artistes and visitors from 150 countries is unsafe, and a separate one should be built for the prime minister and other VIPs.
Besides a stage spread over six football fields, many temporary bridges, ramps, mobile towers and a parking area are being built over a 1,000-acre area on the Yamuna banks. A group of experts appointed by the tribunal had told NDTV that Art of Living must pay around 100 crores to undo the damage
"Ever seen this kind and scale of construction activity in Delhi, especially on a flood plain?" the tribunal questioned the government and the state pollution board as it inquired into clearances given to the event.
City planner Delhi Development Authority or DDA has been asked to pay 5 lakhs and firmly told that it cannot grant clearances like this in future.
The green court was told that no permission was granted to the festival by the Water Resources Ministry, the police or fire safety.
The government also faced protests in Parliament as the opposition questioned why the event was allowed on the flood plains and why official resources like the army had been invested in it.
In a tweet, Sri Sri appealed: "I appeal to all parties to not politicize the #WCF2016. It is to unite all cultures, nations, religions & ideologies. Let's come together!"