NGT Holds Art Of Living Responsible For Yamuna Flood Plain Damage, But Refuses To Impose Further Fines

Bridge constructed for the World Cultural Festival event promoted by Art of Living foundation at the banks of River Yamuna (Arun Sharma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) today (7 December) held the Art of Living Foundation of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar responsible for the alleged damage caused to the Yamuna floodplains due to the World Cultural Festival organised in March 2016.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar, however, refused to impose any further environment compensation on the foundation and said that the amount of Rs 5 crore which was submitted by it earlier would be used for the restoration of the floodplains.

"We hold AoL responsible for the damage caused to the Yamuna floodplains in terms of the report submitted by the expert committee," the bench said.

The bench also comprising Justice Jawad Rahim and expert member B S Sajwan directed the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to assess the damage caused on floodplains and compute cost of restoration in line with the recommendations of the expert panel.

The tribunal said that in case if the expenditure of the restoration crosses the cost Rs 5 crore then it would be recovered from the foundation. However, if the costs is less than Rs 5 crore, the remaining amount would be refunded to the foundation, it said.

The NGT also said that Yamuna floodplains should not be used for any activity which can cause damage to the environment.

However, it refused to decide whether AoL was authorised to hold the festival on Yamuna floodplains or not saying it is beyond its jurisdiction.

The NGT also rapped the DDA for failing to exercise its duty to protect the Yamuna floodplains but refrained from imposing any penalty on it.

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

The AoL counsel said that they will approach the Supreme Court against the verdict.

"We are not in agreement with the verdict. The Art of Living is disappointed with the decision taken by the NGT for damaging Yamuna floodplains during its World Culture Festival.

"We do not agree with the verdict. Our submissions have not been dealt with/considered. We will appeal to the Supreme Court. We are confident that we will get justice before the Supreme Court," AoL said.

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

The expert panel had told the NGT that a Rs 42.02 crore would be required to restore Yamuna floodplains which was ravaged due to the cultural extravaganza held between 11 and 13 March, 2016.

The Green Panel was hearing a plea filed by Manoj Misra who claimed that severe damage was done to the river and the floodplains and it must be restored by authorities concerned. PTI

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