In July 2015, the National Green Tribunal had slapped a fine on the Akshardham Temple Delhi’s management for carrying out expansion without prior environmental clearance and asked a committee on revitalization of Yamuna to examine whether the expanded portion fell on the river’s floodplains.
“We refer the matter, particularly the issue whether the temple’s expanded part falls in the river Yamuna floodplain area or not and the second, whether the conditions of tribunal are complied or not to principal committee constituted for ‘Maily se Nirmal Yamuna’ revitalisation project 2017,” a bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said. The NGT levelled a fine of five per cent of the total cost incurred in the expansion of temple complex, located on the river bank along National Highway 24. It is an old story that I’m not following here.
Let us take up the subject – what is a flood plain? A flood plain is a flat area with areas of higher elevation on both sides that is prone to flooding. Flood plains can be very small or very large and usually are very fertile agricultural areas. When a river breaks its banks and floods, it leaves behind layers of silt that is technically known as ‘alluvium.’ This silt is made of sand, gravel, loam, silt, and/or clay, and important aquifers that are rich in nutrients. There are few rocks or other large obstacles that may prevent farming. Geologically ancient floodplains are often represented in the landscape by fluvial terraces. These are old floodplains that remain relatively high above the present floodplain and indicate former courses of a stream.
In Vietnam’s Mekong River delta, the flood plain of the Hau and Tien rivers covers more than 12,000 square kilometers (7,450 miles).The flood plains between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers are home to some of the world’s earliest civilizations and first cities; the flood plains of the Nile River have been Egypt’s center of agriculture for thousands of years. The floodplain during its formation is marked by meandering streams.
According to experts of the field – “The floodplain is the natural place for a river to dissipate its energy. Meander streams form over the floodplain to slow down the flow of water and when the channel is at capacity the water spills over the floodplain where it is temporarily stored. In terms of flood management the upper part of the floodplain (piedmont zone) is crucial as this is where the flood water control starts. Floodplains support the rich ecosystems, both in quantity and diversity. A floodplain can contain 100 or even 1,000 times as many species as a river.
Wetting of the floodplain soil releases an immediate surge of nutrients: those left over from the last flood, and those that result from the rapid decomposition of organic matter that has accumulated since then. Microscopic organisms thrive and larger species enter a rapid breeding cycle. This makes floodplains particularly valuable for agriculture.”
The experts believe that a flood plain is an ecosystem where many river-related functions like aquifer recharge, natural cleaning of surface waters, habitat of riparian flora and fauna, and completion of the life cycle of many aquatic species take place.
The shrinking spaces of Delhi taking its toll and Yamuna Mayya had been already reduced to dirty drain, the civilized generation is leaving no chance to allow this holy river to breathe.
The latest permission granted to the Art of Living to hold a three-day-long World Culture Festival on the Yamuna floodplains next month is just the latest example of officially-sanctioned encroachment on the Yamuna floodplains. The irony is that latest assault is going to be made in name of ‘Art of Living,’ an event to mark the organisation’s 35th anniversary. It is scheduled for March 11-13, and is expected to attract thousands of visitors from India and all over the world.
Like in politics that is an abstract art, in scientific observation that purely physical, we agree to disagree. Earlier two inspection reports were prepared – one headed by IIT-Delhi Professor AK Gosain and the second by the Delhi Development Authority. – submitted contradictory reports. While the Delhi Development Authority report said no digging work was done at the site, the report prepared Professor Gosain and his team said that the preparations on the floodplains violated the green tribunal’s January 2015 order regarding the floodplains. The ‘National Green Tribunal’ has directed a third inspection of the site after two earlier inspections.
According to this report: “The site has been cleared of all natural vegetation and consolidated with the machinery. It appears that the site has been raised with the help of JCBs (mechanical excavators)… A gigantic stage made of steel rods is under preparation that is proposed to house thousands of artists performing simultaneously. Five pontoon bridges (two on Yamuna, three on Barapullah) are under construction.”
Let us remember that a 2,000 square meter plot in Oshiwara, in the north-western Mumbai suburb of Andheri was granted to Hema Malini to set up a dance school last month for only $1029 while the market price of the same is around $10.29 million.
Ramdev had been allotted a huge patches of land to the Patanajli Yogpeeth, run by yoga guru Baba Ramdev, for setting up an orange processing plant and units for its ayurvedic products. Union transport minister and MP from Nagpur, Nitin Gadkari, guardian minister for Nagpur district Chandrasekhar Bawankule and Balkrishna of Pantanjali Yogpeeth signed an MoU with the state government on Friday which handed over 200 acres in Katol, Nagpur district, for the processing plant and 450 acres in the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in the MIHAN region for its ayurvedic products.
That reminds me a dialogue of an English movie – “What more favors should I ask from the king?”
By Naim Naqvi