Damage to Yamuna floodplains beyond monetary estimation: NGT committee

New Delhi, Aug 17 (IANS) Stating that the Yamuna floodplains had been “completely destroyed” with most areas faced with irreversible damage due to the World Culture Festival of Art of Living (AOL) in Delhi in March, the expert committee appointed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) says it will take much time to quantify the damage.

“The damage caused by AOL to the biodiversity is irreversible. It’s beyond monetary estimation,” Professor C.R. Babu, one of the seven members of the principal committee, told IANS.

He added, “Such estimation cannot be done overnight, it would take time.”

The expert committee in March, before the three-day event was held from March 11-13 on the Yamuna flood plains, had said the estimated damage to the floodplains would be around Rs 120 crore.

Based on its estimation, the NGT had slapped a Rs 5 crore fine.

However, in its recent report, submitted to the NGT on July 28, the committee headed by Water Resource Secretary Shashi Shekhar said “the entire floodplain area used for the main event site, i.e. between DND flyover to River Yamuna, has been completely destroyed, not just damaged.”

Commenting on the loss of floodplain vegetation and biodiversity, the committee said, “Total loss cannot be readily visualised and documented”, adding, “The vegetation provides habitat, food and sites for breeding/nesting etc to a large number of animals…. These organism were rendered homeless, driven away by the intense activity and many were confined to their graves under the debris”.

The committee pointed out towards “invisible loss of biodiversity which cannot be easily assessed and most may never be able to return”.

Speaking of the restoration, the committee said that restoration to optimally desired state cannot be achieved as the ecosystem has been completely destroyed.

“Yamuna floodplain at the main event site had been completely destroyed by complete clearing of all kinds of vegetation, filling of water bodies, dumping debris and garbage followed by levelling…,” it said.

The committee also said that its members were forced to retreat by the AOL volunteers at the site on April 15 when they reached for inspection. It added that they visited the site again on June 6 and their visual assessments are supported by satellite images of the site taken on March 15 and May 10.

The committee made several recommendations including “loosening solid in the entire area”, “removal of all external material/debris and transported to a dumping site recognised by DDA”, “detoxification of soil”, “restoring vegetation by planting carefully selected native trees, shrubs, reeds, sedges etc and the colonisation of desirable aquatic vegetation and fauna such as fish and also the birds” and “construction of treatment wetlands for treating the effluents in the Barapulla drain and other runoff drains by routing waste water through these wetlands before passage into the river”.

The NGT committee said the steps must be implemented, “cost of which should be borne by AOL so as to ecologically restore the area damaged by AOL”.

The NGT will hear the matter on September 28.

–IANS

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