Floodplains blame on Art of Living

Floodplains blame on Art of Living

The National Green Tribunal on Thursday held Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living responsible for damaging the ecology of the Yamuna floodplains during the three-day cultural extravaganza held a year ago and asked the organisation to pay for the restoration works. The DDA had told the tribunal that it had plans to beautify the Yamuna riverbed, to plant more trees, develop the wetland and work for the ecological restoration.

The Art of Living Foundation, in a statement, said: "We maintain that AOL has not caused any damage".

The NGT said on Thursday that in case the expenditure on restoration crossed Rs 5 crore, it would be recovered from AOL, but if the costs were less than that, the balance amount would be refunded to the foundation. The judgment is erroneous and untenable.

In its response, the Art of Living said it was "disappointed with the decision" of the NGT as its submissions were "not dealt with/considered". "It is important to note that one of the judges recused himself on the bench just before the judgment was pronounced". We will appeal to the Supreme Court. "We are confident that we will get justice before the Supreme Court". The expert committee, headed by Shashi Shekhar, Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, also said in April that it would cost Rs 13.29 crore.

The foundation had constructed ramps, erected a scaffold-based stage and created pathways for vehicles across farmland and vegetation along the floodplains ahead of the three-day cultural festival in March 2016.

It said the event was conducted by "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". However, it did not fine the DDA as it has already initiated setting up biodiversity parks along the Yamuna floodplains.

The NGT bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justices Jawed Rahim, Raghuvendra S Rathore and Bikram Singh Sajwan observed "regulating the right to hold cultural meeting is beyond their jurisdiction".

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