Being a culturati, I was very much looking forward to participating and performing as part of the Bharathnatyam troupe at the WORLD CULTURAL FESTIVAL, starting today. Having been closely following the news on the environmental damages this festival is causing, I was in the dilemma of choosing between culture and environment.
I anyway decided to give it a shot and attended the rehearsals, which is when I saw the overwhelming sight – a large part of the Yamuna floodplains has been levelled; the colossal stage and viewers’ arena, majestically raised on steel staging sits right in the centre of the river (not on the banks of the river) and in the process, has caused irreversible damage to the very fragile eco-system the area was sustaining.
For all I know, there must have been at least 20,000 participants, from all across the world there today. Dust flew as our shuttle went chugging along the newly laid “road”. The road is nothing but millions of tons of debris and sand being dumped along the river, a “temporary” arrangement made to park all those vehicles that arrived today. We were covered in flying dust as we got down the shuttle.
Arguments range from: “It was all shrubs, dumps and slums earlier too. It doesn’t really matter now”, “What birds are you talking about? I don’t think there could have been any such rare birds in this area”, to “This is just a temporary structure. If you can argue about this, what about the other permanent structures here which are also on the floodplains?” and “If people really care about Yamuna, then why isn’t there any significant changes about the water?”
If there was a small chance that things could have been made for the better, would you give that chance a thought or gone about completely destroying that tiny ounce of chance? Would those countable number of birds ever return now? Would you rather start now rather than talk about how we never did anything earlier?
I wanted to be part of celebrating the cultures of the world too. But, if that means destroying the very rivers on the banks of which cultures were actually born, then it is meaningless for me to celebrate it.
Change starts small. It starts from within. And hence I have decided to withdraw from participating in this event. Because, silence is acquiescence.
This post first appeared on the author’s Facebook page.