The National Green Tribunal (NGT) in an order on Wednesday allowed permission to spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living foundation to hold its three-day World Culture Festival on the banks of the river Yamuna in the national capital.
A four-judge bench headed by the chairperson of NGT, Swatanter Kumar allowed permission on conditions of Art of Living submitting an undertaking to the NGT by Thursday promising to clear the area of any construction material, waste material, debris, unnatural object from the flood plains after the event is concluded.
The NGT told AOL to submit an initial fine of Rs 5 crore before commencement of the event. Further restoration cost and fines will be notified by the tribunal at a later date.
The tribunal pulled up AOL for causing large scale damage to the environment and ecosystem of the sensitive floodplains which take hundreds of years to form.
Therefore, the tribunal directed the AOL to restore and redevelop the area into a bio diversity park.
“DDA’s permission to hold the event was not in consonance with the NGT and that DDA was acting in excess of the powers granted to it.”
As a result, NGT imposed a fine of Rs 5 lakh on DDA for not conducting a survey before granting permission to Vyakti Vikas Kendra India, a front organisation and trust founded by Sri Sri to hold the event. Interestingly, the permission did not mention the size of the area on which the event was to be organised.
The NGT also pulled up the Ministry of Environment and Forest and Delhi Pollution Control Board for non-performance and fined the latter Rs 1 lakh for neither allowing or refusing permission to hold the event.
Petitioner Anand Arya had filed an appeal on an earlier order of the NGT relating to co-petitioner Manoj Mishra’s complain challenging provisions allowing construction activities on the sensitive Yamuna flood plains.
The mega-event will celebrate the completion of 35 years of the foundation run by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. The event will be held from Friday to Sunday, 13 March.
AOL is expecting around 35 lakh people to attend the event from 155 countries. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to inaugurate it on Friday.
A 27-acre multiple step stage has been constructed for over 35000 performers which is 40 feet high. Also the over 40 hectre area has been levelled and preparations are in full swing for the event.
AOL told the tribunal that it is organising the event at a cost of Rs 15.63 crore with an additional Rs 10 crore for decoration.