Sri Sri Ravishankar-run Art of Living Foundation (AoL) is ‘responsible’ for causing ‘damage and environmental degradation’ to Yamuna floodplains during the hosting of the World Culture Festival (WCF), the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has said. The three-day event was held in March 2016.
NGT Chairperson Swatanter Kumar said in the ruling: ‘We hold and declare respondent number 3 (Art of Living) responsible for causing damage and environmental degradation of floodplain of river Yamuna limited to area that was awarded by DDA and State of Uttar Pradesh.’
The Green Tribunal also hauled up the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) for ‘failing to exercise its statutory duty in consonance with environmental laws in force.’
However, to the relief of AoL or Art of Living organization, the green panel has not imposed additional penalty and said the amount of Rs 5 crore that was submitted by the AoL Foundation earlier will be used for restoration of the damaged floodplains.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) also said the Rs 5 crore deposited by the Art of Living Foundation will be utilized by DDA for restoration of floodplains. ‘In the event that expenditure for that purpose is found in excess of Rs 5 crore, DDA would be at liberty to recover said amount and respondent number 3 shall be liable to pay amount,” said the ruling. The NGT judgment also added if the total expense is less than Rs 5 crore, remaining amount will be refunded to the Art of Living (AoL) organization.
The Green Tribunal also said it didn’t wish to impose any more penalty on Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s organization and said that it was providing it an opportunity to comply with orders.
Art of Living (AoL) Foundation to appeal against NGT order
The Art of Living (AoL) Foundation has expressed ‘disappointment’ over the NGT judgment in a statement which was issued.
‘We don’t agree with the (NGT) verdict. Our submissions haven’t been dealt or considered. We will appeal to Supreme Court.’ ‘The Art of Living (Foundation) has always abided by directions of the honorable court and authorities who extended permission to hold the (World Culture Festival) festival,” the organization has said.
Yamuna plains rehab to cost Rs 42 crore and take 10 years: NGT experts committee
Earlier in the year, an NGT-appointed committee of experts had said that rehabilitation of the Yamuna floodplains and the pollution will cost more than Rs 42.02 crore and that the task could take up to 10 years. The green tribunal also maintained that the AoL Foundation was responsible for ‘restoration and restitution of flood plain limited to portion that was allotted” to it for the festival ‘in original condition in which it was allotted to it prior to event.’
National Green Tribunal spares DDA of additional compensation
“We would’ve imposed environmental compensation upon DDA as well, but keeping in mind it has planned construction of biodiversity park and improvement of floodplains from its funds, we don’t impose further compensation upon it,” said the NGT ruling.
As it pronounced the judgment, the green tribunal directed DDA to carry restoration and other works under the guidance of experts’ committee, which had prepared a report on degradation of the floodplains.
Image credit: The Hindu
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