Workers erect scaffolding to build a stage at the venue of World Culture Festival on the banks of the river Yamuna in New Delhi, March 8, 2016. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee

(From Reuters)

Environmentalists in India are aghast at the hosting of a huge cultural festival on the floodplain of Delhi’s main river that begins on Friday, warning that the event and its 3.5 million visitors will devastate the area’s biodiversity.

Workers lay carpet on the steps of a stage at the venue of World Culture Festival on the banks of the river Yamuna in New Delhi on March 8

The World Culture Festival, organised by one of India’s best-known spiritual gurus, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, spreads across 1,000 acres (400 hectares) on the banks of the Yamuna. It features a 7-acre stage for 35,000 musicians and dancers, newly built dirt tracks and 650 portable toilets.

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.

“This land is not meant for any of those things. The biodiversity of the land has been completely destroyed,” said Anand Arya, one of several environmentalists who petitioned the National Green Tribunal (NGT), India’s top green court.

“Where will the sewage and the excrement go? All across the floodplains!” he said, adding that the waste left by visitors would endanger a nearby bird sanctuary.

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 – and not just among environmentalists. Read More

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