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An open letter to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

An open letter to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
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You, Ravi Shankarji, have now levelled over 100 square km of Yamuna floodplains with all sorts of material. Even when you go away after three days and...

You, Ravi Shankarji, have now levelled over 100 square km of Yamuna floodplains with all sorts of material. Even when you go away after three days and even if all the structures are removed, the levelling of the ground has done permanent damage to the floodplains and water bodies.

Now, read this: “Greed pollutes the subtle environment and mind of man with negative emotions and impressions. Pollution permeates both the physical and subtle environment. An angry person exudes anger which spreads to others around him. It is a chain reaction. At the root of all wars is a compounded negativity of emotions. Often we are not aware that something that is anti-environment is also anti-health.” These are your own words

Sri Ravi Shankar ji,
You are celebrating a world cultural festival on a grand scale, defying all odds and the law of the land with impunity on the floodplains of River Yamuna. I just happened to read your own blogs and biography and other writings that appear on your website. They all make a pleasant reading.

Particularly, this paragraph on environment: "An intimate relationship with the environment is built into the human psyche. Historically, nature — mountains, rivers, trees, the sun, the moon — have always been honoured in ancient cultures. It's only when we start moving away from our connection to Nature and our selves, that we begin polluting and destroying the environment.”

I was watching your aide Mahesh Giri repeatedly proclaiming on the channels after the National Green Tribunal order imposing a fine of Rs 5 crore on your organisation for the environmental damage that you had caused to the Yamuna river system. You guys claim that there was no wrong, no pollution nor any damage at all and, hence, no need to pay heed to the NGT order.

Perhaps, you are not aware of Yamunaji (as it is respectfully called here) and its floodplains. Let me draw your attention to the facts that you are unaware of. Yamunaji is already facing a crisis due to pollution at various levels. Hence, it is all the more relevant to integrate its floodplains into the river basin management through water allocation for human and ecological purposes, sustainable use, participatory management and monitoring and evaluation.

Several expert committees have recommended the same. Wetlands International, South Asia, highlighted the river's critical role in groundwater recharge, water quality improvement and enhancing biodiversity. You do not see any of these in Yamuna. All that was visible to you was the vast openness of Yamunaji. Realtors look at it similarly and they have caused enough damage. Akshardham temple, too, did so as well as the sports village constructed here for the purpose of Commonwealth Games in the past. You are no different. I tell you why.

Studies have revealed that the River Yamuna in Delhi is a highly braided system due to construction of embankments all along the stretch for flood protection. The floodplain area restricted within two bunds covers an area of 94.84 sq km. The longitudinal and lateral flows of water within the stretch essentially determine the floodplain of the river system.

The rainfall, confined to the monsoon from July to October, results in the lateral flow of water after attaining bank-full level of the river channel. The river thus is left with limited floodplain area for inundation even during monsoon. The maximum width of active floodplain is observed near Okhla where a large quantum of water is brought through Hindon cut. The channel morphology in this area also helps maintain a large floodplain area subjected to inundation almost throughout the year.

Planktonic and benthic organisms (55 species), 74 species of macrophytes, 90 species of phytoplankton, 62 species of zooplankton, 36 species of fish and 131 bird species are dependent on these flood plants. Would suffice if you to understand that these are organisms critical to the eco system. By the by, all these breathe just as you and me do. The study of Wetlands International has also identified that fishes in general included groups of carps, catfishes, murrels and ornamental fishes.

Hydrology is the key factor in governing fish fauna in the Delhi stretch of River Yamuna along with floodplain lakes/ ponds that play a significant role as breeding and spawning grounds of the riverine fish species and their restocking into the system. The conversion of floodplain areas for developmental activities such as construction of NOIDA toll bridge, Akshardham Temple, Metcalf House, New Delhi Secretariat etc. had already resulted in filling up of floodplain lakes/ ponds / wetlands, which led to the fragmentation of floodplain area, thereby hampering the lateral movement of water and fish.

High population and diversity of water birds observed at Okhla shows strong relationships with habitat in terms of food availability, openness of water body and presence of shelter plants at Okhla. High concentration of benthic fauna at this site was responsible for some shore birds to derive their food material from the floodplain area.

The high population of piscivorous birds is linked with increased fish population at Okhla. The analyses of continuity/discontinuity of biodiversity indicated significant heterogeneity within the river stretch. The curves of species gain exhibited anomalous changes in gradients due to introduction of species from lateral habitats. Higher gain of species in zone 1 is attributed to occurrence of maximum number of water bodies in this zone. Inundation of floodplain area at Okhla is also a contributory factor for enhanced biodiversity at this site.

The current land use in the floodplain area is dominated almost equally by forests and agriculture with almost insignificant proportion comprising lakes and ponds. This is mainly due to conversion of fertile floodplain area for agriculture. Forest Department without understanding nature of the floodplain system has profusely undertaken plantation within the stretch.

Connectivity of water bodies has also been lost due to unplanned developmental activities thereby seriously impacting biodiversity of the entire river system. The Yamuna Action Plan faces the task of ensuring connectivity of lakes and ponds within floodplains with river channel for conservation of biodiversity.

You, Ravi Shankarji, have now levelled over 100 square kms of these floodplains with all sorts of material. Even when you go away after three days and even if all the structures are removed, the levelling of the ground has done permanent damage to the floodplains and water bodies. All the organisms in this vast stretch are finished because of your arrogance and the river system – both upstream and downstream – has been permanently damaged.

Read the following three paragraphs, please: "We need to revive the ancient practice of honouring and conserving Nature. Looking at Nature, we can take our lessons in environment preservation. There are so many species in Nature - the birds, reptiles, mammals; all these different species are hostile towards each other and yet Nature balances them out. Nor will you find pollution in a forest despite so many animals living there together. It is amazing how Nature digests waste material and produces something more beautiful".

"The greatest pollutant is, of course, human greed. It comes in the way of preservation of ecology, as it gives higher priority to quick profit and quick results over eco-friendly manufacturing practices. Greed pollutes the subtle environment and mind of man with negative emotions and impressions. Pollution permeates both the physical and subtle environment. An angry person exudes anger which spreads to others around him. It is a chain reaction.

At the root of all wars is a compounded negativity of emotions. Often we are not aware thatsomething that is anti-environment is also anti-health.” "We need to attend to the human psyche which causes pollution, whether physical or emotional. If compassion and care are kindled within the Self, they reflect in the environment and a sense of sacredness follows.

People should be encouraged to treat the planet as sacred, to treat trees and rivers as sacred, to treat people as sacred and to see God in Nature and in people. This will foster sensitivity; and a sensitive person can't but care for Nature.” Sounds familiar again? These are your own words. Any Art devoid of wisdom and compassion is not good for the society. You are in conflict with nature, Guruji. Period.

Yours

W. Chandrakanth

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