The National Green Tribunal on Thursday warned the Delhi Development Authority of action against it for questioning an expert panel report on the damage caused to the Yamuna floodplains during the Art of Living’s three-day festival in March 2016. The DDA counsel had questioned the basis of the panel’s findings, reported PTI.
According to the committee, which had comprised several leading environmentalists and academincs, it would take over Rs 40 crore and a decade’s work to undo the damage.
“It is not fair,” the bench told the DDA. “You cannot make sweeping comments on people who have devoted their life to environment. We are warning you people that if anybody passes strictures, we will not hesitate to take action against them.”
In April, the tribunal had issued a contempt notice to Art of Living founder Ravi Shankar over the controversy surrounding the ecologically sensitive Yamuna floodplains. The notice was based on a petition against him, which had accused him of blaming the Centre and the NGT for damaging the Yamuna floodplains by allowing Art of Living to host the event at the site.
In a statement on his website, Ravi Shankar had derided the government and NGT for allowing his foundation to hold a massive cultural show on a site that has been described as “fragile and pure”. “They could have stopped the event in the beginning if they wanted to,” a statement on his website had said. “It defies all principles of natural justice that you give permissions and slap a fine for not violating any rules! This is like giving a challan to someone at a green signal!”
The Art of Living had held the mega cultural show to mark 35 years since the organisation was founded. Environmentalists and NGOs had protested against the event being held on the floodplains of the Yamuna, saying it would irreparably damage the ecologically sensitive zone. The NGT had taken note of the matter and fined the organisation Rs 120 crore, but later revised the figure to Rs 5 crore. It had also allowed the Art of Living to go ahead with the celebrations.
After the event, the foundation had appealed against the fine. It had paid Rs 25 lakh of the Rs 5-crore amount and said that the remaining be treated as a bank guarantee that would go towards efforts to create a biodiversity park in the area. On April 22, the green tribunal had pulled up the foundation for not allowing inspections at the festival site, to which Art of Living said that it was still cleaning up the area when an inspection team arrived there on April 15. It later paid the remaining fine amount.