Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s controversial World Culture Festival organised by the Art of Living (AOL) in New Delhi was surrounded by controversy for its venue being the banks of Yamuna river. An environmental scientist visited the venue of the event on Day 2. Few days later, the scientist Dr Rakesh Kumar wrote a ‘report’ and argued that the floodplains of Yamuna were not damaged by the event at all. Dr Rakesh Kumar is a director at the National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) run by the government.
His ‘report’ was circulated on March 18 and it was in contradiction of the decision of the National Green Tribunal which said it had caused permanent damage to the floodplains.
The supporters of Art of Living also claimed that a “clean chit” was given to the festival. Well now, NEERI has distanced itself from the views of Dr Rakesh Kumar, leading to a controversy between the scientist and the supporters of Art of Living.
An email was sent out on March 22 by NEERI acting director Tapas Nandy, in which he said that Dr Kumar’s opinion "does not reflect the view of" the Institute. In the email, he also said that Kumar was not even authorised to carry out the study.
"The opinion expressed by Dr. Rakesh Kumar is in his personal capacity and his opinion does not reflect the view of CSIR-NEERI. Dr. Rakesh Kumar was not authorised by CSIR-NEERI for the same," Nandy wrote.
"CSIR-NEERI has not carried out any such study at the site in question," the letter added.
Manoj Misra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, a campaign to revive the polluted Yamuna river, raised the questions, which were addressed in this letter.