India's court holds spiritual leader's organisation responsible for damaging Yamuna floodplains

08 December, 2017, 08:44 | Author: Darnell Taylor
  • India's court holds spiritual leader's organisation responsible for damaging Yamuna floodplains

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) today held Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living (AoL) "responsible" for causing damage to the Yamuna floodplains by conducting the World Culture Festival there and directed that the Rs 5 crore paid by the organisation in fine be utilised by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) for restoration of the affected area.

The green court also asked the capital's lead planning body, the Delhi Development Authority, to do a fresh assessment of how much money would be required to restore the damaged floodplains. "It said in case if the expenditure of the restoration crosses the cost of INR 50 million then it would be recovered from the AoL". In its response, AoL said it would move the Supreme Court against the verdict.

The AoL had organised the World Culture Festival from 11-13 March, 2016, on the floodplains and constructed an oval-shaped stage over an area of seven acres.

The green tribunal directed the Delhi Development Authority to utilise Rs 5 crore, paid by the Art of Living Foundation past year as fine, for restoring the floodplains. "If the amount is more, it is to be taken from Art of Living for the damage caused".

The Bench also added that if the total expense incurred is less than Rs. 5 crore, the remaining amount will have to be refunded to the organisation. AoL is disappointed with the decision taken by the NGT for damaging Yamuna floodplains during its World Culture Festival. We are not in agreement with the verdict. Our submissions have not been dealt with/considered. "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. We will appeal to the Hon'ble Supreme Court.

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In its order, the NGT bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar stated that the Yamuna riverbed should not be used for any cultural activity of this kind in future.

Stating that it was committed to work towards the good of the society, the AoL said it was confident of getting justice from the apex court.

"We do not agree with the verdict".

An expert panel had told the NGT that the restoraton of the floodplain would cost Rs 42.02 crore.

Before the pronouncement of the judgement, the NGT was informed that Justice R S Rathore, who had earlier heard the matter, had recused from the bench.

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