- Sri Sri Ravi Shankar asks parties to not politicise his 3-day festival
- Organisers are rushing to finish 'world's biggest stage' at the venue
- Green Tribunal cleared the event but with conditions and a Rs 5 cr fine
The "World Culture Festival", organised by one of India's best-known spiritual gurus, spreads across 1,000 acres on the river banks. It features a 7-acre stage for 35,000 musicians and dancers.
Green groups accuse organisers of ripping up vegetation and ruining the river's fragile ecosystem by damaging its bed and disrupting water flows. They want authorities to cancel the event before more harm is done.
India's top green court, the National Green Tribunal (NGT), is expected to deliver its verdict today. Security at the court was increased considerably this morning.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who like Ravi Shankar is a yoga devotee, was due to attend Friday's opening, but it is not clear whether he will do so after the event sparked such uproar; his security team has reported the venue as unsafe for him.
Experts who assessed the venue on behalf of the green court have recommended the Art of Living Foundation be fined 100 crores to restore the land.
Meanwhile, back at the festival site, builders are rushing to finish what they say is the world's biggest ever performing stage.
"This here will have a symphony of 8,500, and these 20,000 performers on stage at any one time," said Prasana Prabhu, a trustee of Ravi Shankar's foundation.
Ravi Shankar, who commands a huge following in India and abroad, has rejected the criticism. After opposition leaders raised the event in Parliament, accusing the government of putting the environment at risk, he tweeted this response:
I appeal to all parties to not politicize the #WCF2016. It is to unite all cultures, nations, religions & ideologies. Let's come together!— Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (@SriSri) March 9, 2016
His organisation's lawyer, Saraswati Akshama Nath, said necessary approvals including safety certificates were granted in December before construction began, and that the structures would be removed once the three-day festival ends.
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