New Delhi: In a setback to the Art of Living Foundation of spiritual leader Ravi Shankar, the National Green Tribunal on Thursday held it responsible for causing damage and environmental degradation of the Yamuna floodplains by holding a three-day cultural extravaganza last year. While refusing to impose an additional environment fine on the AoL which has already deposited Rs 5 crore, the NGT 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 termed the verdict as “erroneous and untenable” and said they would move the Supreme Court against it. Ordering that the Yamuna riverbed should not be used to hold any cultural activity of this kind in future, the green panel directed the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to assess the damage caused on 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.
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. 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 from AoL. The tribunal rapped the DDA over its failure to maintain the ecology of the Yamuna floodplains and said it has failed to exercise its statutory duty in consonance with the environmental laws in force. It refrained from imposing compensation on the DDA on the ground that it has already planned construction of a bio-diversity park and improvement of floodplains from its own funds.