New Delhi: A close aide of the Art of Living (AOL) founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has claimed that the NGT report which concluded that the 'World Culture Festival' organised by the renowned spiritual guru's NGO had totally damaged the floodplains of the Yamuna river is completely baseless and unscientific.
Prabhakar Rao, an environment expert and close aide of Sri Sri, was quoted as saying by NDTV that the expert committee members just took a 45-minute walk and concluded that there was Rs 220-crores damage.
However, there was no scientific listing of what was damaged, no quantification," he added.
The reactions from Sri Sri's camp came shortly after a group of seven experts said in a report that the three-day festival in March has "completely destroyed and not simply damaged the riverbed".
The expert committee was set up by the National Green Tribunal to assess the cost of the damage in 45 days.
The 47-page report said, ''The ground is now totally levelled, compacted and hardened and is totally devoid of water bodies or depressions and almost completely devoid of any vegetation."
The floodplain, the report said, has lost "almost all its natural vegetation" like trees, shrubs, tall grasses and aquatic vegetation including water hyacinth crucial to the survival of a large number of animals and organisms.
"These organisms were rendered homeless, driven away by intense activity and many were consigned to graves under the debris. This is invisible loss of biodiversity which cannot be easily assessed and most may never be able to return," it stated.
The Art of Living was allowed to go ahead with the event on the condition that it would pay five crores against the damage. It had last week accused the experts' group of "bias".
After surveying the area, the experts have noted that a "huge amount of earth and debris have been dumped to construct the ramps."
There has been a change in topography in the riverbed, said the report, and the "construction of ramps and roads, filling up of water bodies and levelling of the ground together with compaction have almost completely eliminated the natural physical features and the diversity of habitats."
The three-day event featured performances on a seven-acre stage and hundreds of thousands of devotees. The opening of the event was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but President Pranab Mukherjee dropped out.