Delhi’s verdant flood plain has been systematically destroyed, is being converted for high-profile event

Screen shot 2016-02-16 at 10.32.46 AM
Yamuna floodplain in September 2015

Several prominent persons, including former government officials, environmentalists and social activists, have written a letter President Pranab Mukherjee, with copies to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, among others, drawing their urgent attention on the need to stop encroachment and destruction of Yamuna floodplains for an Art of Living event. Text of the letter:

The media reports inform about your honour’s plans to participate in March 2016 at the planned celebrations of the 35th Anniversary of the ‘Art of Living’ Foundation, a private organisation formed by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji.

Under the normal circumstances, your participation at any such event would not raise any issue of concern. However, in the present instance, when the said event is being planned after clearing, compacting, dumping of earth and construction underway over some 1000 acres of the active flood plain of river Yamuna in Delhi, and the matter being sub-judice at the National Green Tribunal in OA No 65 of 2016 as prima facie the said preparations are in violation of the NGT judgment of 13 January 2015 in OA No 6 of 2012 and OA No 300 of 2013, your honour’s participation might appear to lend legitimacy to an illegal activity.

We would like to draw your attention to a pictorial report that highlights through comparative photos of Sept 15, 2015 and Feb 5, 2016, how a verdant flood plain has got systematically destroyed and is being converted for the event. It may be added here that Yamuna floodplains has already suffered many encroachments and this additional encroachment will only make the situation worse.

According to India’s current National Water policy, “Conservation of rivers, river corridors, water bodies and infrastructure should be undertaken in a scientifically planned manner through community participation… Environmental needs of Himalayan regions, aquatic eco-system, wet lands and embanked flood plains need to be recognized and taken into consideration while planning.” In current case, the National Water Policy stands violated.

According to experts the integrity of flood plains of rivers are the river’s life lines in the following manner: “Floodplain waters contain at least 100 times more species than do river channels, and there is growing evidence that many, if not all, of the species that live in rivers depend in some way on floodplains. Floodplains are nature’s water treatment works, removing vast quantities of pollutants from inland river waters. They also provide rivers with the building blocks of life, which are used by everything from bacteria to fish”.  It is clear that current event is destroying the Yamuna floodplains and all the associated services it provides.

Screen shot 2016-02-16 at 11.41.39 AM
The spot being prepared for the event, as on February 5, 2016

Some opine that but it is just a small fraction of a large area. But a violation of rule of law remains a violation, however, small it is shown to be and sets a bad precedent. Just like a boil that could turn into a cancer on a human body, every bit of flood plain of a river if lost or converted jeopardises the river’s health. As we all know, Yamuna riverbed and floodplain already stands encroached.

Some others opine that but it is just for few days. Sir, again the event might be for few days but the devastation that results from its preparatory and operational phase (specially of the dimension of this event where some 35 lakh persons are expected to participate and a stage spread over some 7 acres is planned to be constructed) would outlasts decades in terms of river Yamuna’s health, which already is in no great shape.

Accordingly it is our humble request to your honour to kindly reconsider your plans, so as not to lend legitimacy with your august presence to an event that is under the NGT’s scanner for violation of its prohibition imposed in January 2015 and is setting such a problematic precedent.

*Signatories:

  1. EAS Sarma, Former Secretary, Govt of India, Vishakhapatnam, eassarma@gmail.com
  2. Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao Andolan, Madhya Pradesh nba.medha@gmail.com
  3. Madhu Bhaduri, former ambassador of India, Delhi, madhu.bhaduri@gmail.com
  4. Paritosh Tyagi, Chairman & Managing Trustee-IDC Foundation, N Delhi paritoshtyagi@gmail.com
  5. Bharat Jhunjhunwala, Former Professor, IIM-B, Uttarakhand, bharatjj@gmail.com
  6. Dr Latha Anantha, River Research Centre, Thrissur, latha.anantha9@gmail.com
  7. Samir Mehta, River Basin Friends, Mumbai, samir.meht@gmail.com
  8. Dr Sudhirendar Sharma, Ecological Foundation, Delhi, sudhirendarsharma@gmail.com
  9. Vimal Bhai, Matu Jan Sangathan, Uttarakhand, bhaivimal@gmail.com
  10. Malika Virdi, Himal Prakriti, Munsiari, Uttarakhand,  malika.virdi@gmail.com
  11. Emmanuel Theophilus, Himal Prakriti, Munsiari, Uttarakhand, etheophilus@gmail.com
  12. Ramnarayan. K, Himal Prakriti, Munsiari, Uttarakhand, ramnarayan.k@gmail.com
  13. Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP, Pune, parinieeta.dandekar@gmail.com
  14. Himanshu Thakkar, SANDRP, Delhi, ht.sandrp@gmail.com
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