Lonely Planet Writer

Indian guru's festival sparks environmental concerns

An Indian guru’s festival has come under fire from environmentalists who say that it risks damaging the ecosystem of Delhi’s Yamuna River irrevocably.

Houses in Delhi's Old Town.
Houses in Delhi’s Old Town. Image by José Antonio Morcillo Valenciano / CC BY 2.0

The World Culture festival is organised by the supporters of Indian spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar “for spiritual and religious leaders, politicians, peacemakers and artists to spread the message of global peace and harmony”.

Organisers believe that 3.5 million people will be in attendance for the event, including India’s prime minister Narendra Modi. The event celebrates world peace and features yoga, meditation, peace prayers, talks by scholars, as well all manners of performances.

The Live Yamuna campaign is attempting to draw attention to the lasting damage the event will have on the area. Manoj Mishra of Live Yamuna has said that the in setting up for the event the organisers have cleared the surrounding area of 1,000 acres. “Reed beds were cleared, vegetation was chopped for a two-and-a-half day event, which will leave an everlasting impact on the environment,” Mishra said.

Spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Image by Richter Frank Jurgen / CC BY 2.0

The foundation that organises Shankar’s festival, the Art of Living foundation, has said it has built the festival in an eco-friendly and sustainable fashion: “We have used only eco-friendly material like wood, mud, cloth and scaffolding towards building a temporary stage.”

The event will take place on 11 March. The Yamuna river is the longest and the second largest tributary to the Ganges. The Yamuna has strong religious significance with beliefs surrounding Krishna as well as to many other Hindu beliefs and is often used as a place of worship and celebration.