AoL responsible for damaging Yamuna floodplains: NGT

Friday, 08 Dec, 2017

The National Green Tribunal on Thursday held spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living foundation responsible for damaging the Yamuna floodplains during its three-day festival in March 2016, The Indian Express reported.

The bench further directed DDA to assess the damage caused and compute a cost of restoration.

"In the event that the expenditure for that goal, is found to be in excess of Rs. 5 crore, the DDA would be at liberty to recover the said amount and respondent number 3 (Art of Living) shall be liable to pay the said amount on demand", read the judgment.

AoL, meanwhile, said it will move to country's Supreme Court against the NGT verdict.

The NGT had November 13 reserved its order on the issue of damage caused to the Yamuna floodplains where a cultural extravaganza was organised past year by the Art of Living.

The NGT, however, refused to impose additional fine adding that the DDA should use the deposited amount to restore the floodplains and bill the AoL if the cost was more or return to it the balance if the cost was below that amount.

However, NGT directed the organisers of the event to pay a fine of 744,262 US dollars (INR 50 million) as compensation for the environmental damage the event is likely to cause to the floodplains. In case the cost is less, the difference amount must be returned to AoL, it said. "We further direct the DDA, under the guidance of the expert committee to carry out restoration, restitution and other necessary works and also ensure the construction or establishment of a bio-diversity park at the site", said the Bench while pronouncing the judgment.

"Yesterday NGT said AoL foundation's act of holding the World Cultural Festival on Yamuna floodplains in March 2016 damaged the fragile ecosystem and riverbed", an official of NGT said. We do not agree with the verdict.

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". We will appeal to 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. "We are confident that we will get justice before the Supreme Court".

It should have considered the request for permission in accordance with environmental laws in force, it said.

The NGT was informed that Justice R S Rathore, who had earlier heard the matter, had recused from the bench.