In a trouble for Ravi Shankar and his Art of Living Foundation, the National Green Tribunal has held it responsible for causing damage and environmental degradation to the Yamuna floodplains by holding a three-day cultural extravaganza in 2016. The AoL has termed the verdict as ‘erroneous and untenable’ and said they would move the Supreme Court against it. Notably, AoL has already deposited Rs 5 crore. The NGT, however, refused to impose an additional environment fine on the AoL. The Green Bench has ordered the DDA to use this amount to restore the floodplains and bill the AoL if the cost is more or return to it the balance if the cost is below that amount. The AoL had organised the World Culture Festival from March 11-13, 2016, on the floodplains and constructed an oval-shaped stage over an area of seven acres.
The NGT has ordered that the Yamuna riverbed should not be used to hold any cultural activity of this kind in future. It has directed the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to assess the damage caused by floodplains and compute cost of restoration in line with the recommendations of the expert panel appointed by it. “We hold and declare that AoL is responsible for causing damage and environmental degradation of the floodplain of river Yamuna limited to the area that was awarded to it by DDA and the State of UP, in terms of the report of the High Powered Committee,” the NGT said in its judgement.
Noting that the AoL has already deposited Rs 5 crore with the DDA, it said “in the event, the expenditure for that purpose on the portion of the land forming part of Phase-II of the project of DDA is found to be in excess of Rs 5 crore, DDA would be at liberty to recover the said amount and AoL shall be liable to pay the said amount on demand.
Take a look at AoL Twitter
Official statement from The Art of Living on NGT’s verdict. https://t.co/MMuPgDTric pic.twitter.com/MngQxpznOg
— The Art of Living (@ArtofLiving) December 7, 2017
On other hands, AoL has expressed ‘disappointment’ over the the NGT verdict, the AoL claimed that it had complied with all environmental norms and its submissions were not considered. The NGT, in its verdict pronounced today, held the foundation headed by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar responsible for the damage to the floodplains “in terms of the report submitted by the expert committee”. “The Art of Living is disappointed with the decision taken by the NGT…. We do not agree with the verdict. Our submissions have not been dealt with/considered,” a statement issued by the AoL said.
It said the AoL is a law-abiding body and would appeal in the Supreme Court for justice. “We will appeal to the Supreme Court. We are confident that we will get justice before the Supreme Court,” the statement said. AoL also claimed that the event was conducted after complying with all environmental norms by procuring approvals from the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change department, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee, the Uttar Pradesh Irrigation Committee, Delhi Disaster Management Authority, Irrigation and Flood Control Department of Delhi and others.