Interestingly, the Project Incharge of Biodiversity Parks, C.R. Babu, is part of the Expert Committee of National Green Tribunal (NGT), which has prepared the report on the alleged damage caused by the Sri Sri Ravishankar’s Art of Living (AoL) event—World Cultural Festival—organised on the banks of Yamuna in the capital last year.
As per a reply received through RTI, internal audit of the Biodiversity Parks is performed by University of Delhi. However, when the petitioners Anand Mathur and Gautam Vij , approached the DU, he got a shocker as it emerged that no internal audit of the parks has ever been conducted.
Biodiversity Parks are owned and funded by the DDA, while their day-to-day operations are taken care by the Centre for Environmental Management of Degraded Ecosystems (CEMDE), University of Delhi. This Centre is also supposed to do the internal audit. Interestingly, after the RTI was filed, CEMDE Director Inderjit Singh has reportedly written a letter to DU Registrar requesting inclusion of CEMDE in the Internal audit.
Biodiversity Parks have been part of the public discourse for a long time. Every year, thousands of foreign tourists, students from schools, colleges and universities and government officials visit these parks. Recently, President of Nepal Bidhya Devi Bhandari visited the Yamuna Biodiversity Park.
As per RTI information, as much as Rs 40 crore was spent from 2004-2017 on the three biodiversity parks—Yamuna Biodiversity Park, Yamuna Biodiversity Park Phase II and Aravalli Biodiversity Park—but so far, there has been no internal audit of this amount spent by the CEMDE, which manages these parks.
“Why was there no mechanism for the last 13 years for internal audit of a project which was receiving crores of rupees of public money? If a strong monitoring mechanism was operational, why should there be a need to write to the Registrar to save the face now after the RTI was filed?” asked RTI activist Gopal Prasad.
Interestingly, University of Delhi’s website has details of Biodiversity Parks only for the years between 2004 and 2011. However, the details for the rest of the years have been furnished only after the RTI request, which, according to Prasad, is clearly a violation of Section 4 of the RTI Act because under Section 4, any and every information related to a public department should be available on the department website within six months and lack of such information there amounts to an indication of “financial irregularity”.
Regarding the AoL event, according to various reports submitted to the National Green Tribunal by the Expert Committee, the damage has varied from Rs 120 crore to Rs 13 crore and Rs 42 crore from time to time. The Art of Living has maintained that the expert committee, including Babu, is “clearly biased”.
Prasad said: “No effort was made to do the internal audit of Rs 40 crore spent on the parks. No effort was made to ascertain how the project benefited the Yamuna river. Also, how would imposing penalty on AoL help Yamuna become clean? Instead, it would have been better had the NGT asked the organisation specifically to carry out ‘purification’ work.”