The NGT on Thursday held Shri Shri Ravishankar’s Art of Living Foundation (AOL) responsible for damage caused to the Yamuna Floodplains, during its 2016 World Culture Festival in New Delhi. No additional monetary penalty was imposed by the Tribunal though.
The bench headed by the NGT chairperson Swatanter Kumar added that the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has to carry out the restoration work on the floodplains under the guidance of the expert committee, assess the cost of doing so. It added that if the cost exceeds Rs 5 crore – the amount that AOL paid last year as compensation – then DDA will recover the rest from the AOL foundation.
“The DDA has failed to perform its statutory functions of maintaining the ecology. It shall assess the quantum of damage and carry out the restoration work” said the Bench.
An expert committee headed by Shashi Shekhar, Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, in April said that Rs 42.02 crore would be required to restore the Yamuna floodplains. The panel had suggested that there would be two components of rehabilitation plan — physical and biological, and they would cost Rs 28.73 crore and Rs l3.29 crore respectively, besides additional ancillary expenses.
Earlier on November the tribunal had reserved its verdict on the issue. Slamming DDA for granting nod to AOL, despite three initial rejections the green panel said that the civic body should have exercised proper caution while alloting the area for holding the World Culture Festival.
Meanwhile, the AOL has said that it will move the Supreme Court against the NGT’s verdict holding it responsible for the damage caused to the floodplains. The foundation on Thursday after the verdict issued a statement saying, “The Art of Living is disappointed with the decision taken by the NGT…. We do not agree with the verdict. Our submissions have not been dealt with/considered.” Expressing ‘disappointment’ over the verdict, the statement added, “The Art of Living is disappointed with the decision taken by the NGT…. We do not agree with the verdict. Our submissions have not been dealt with/considered.”