NGT raps DDA over damage to Yamuna floodplains in AOL event; asks how long will restoration take

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday rapped the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) in a case over damage caused to the Yamuna floodplains because of the three-day cultural event organised by Art of Living (AOL) last year.

World Culture Festival, organised by Sri Sri Ravisankar's ARt of Living was mired in controversy for damaging the environment. Reuters

The World Culture Festival, organised by the Art of Living, was mired in controversy. Image courtesy: Firstpost

The tribunal, talking tough on the issue, came down heavily on DDA, maintaining that the organisation will be held responsible for damage done to the environment.

"If there is damage to the biodiversity of Yamuna, then DDA would be responsible, because DDA allowed AOL to hold an event," the NGT panel said, according to news agency ANI.

It also asked the DDA to commit to a deadline for the restoration of the floodplain's environment. However, DDA said that it does not have the expertise to gauge a timeframe at present, and the restoration work could even take up to 10 years.

Earlier, all parties summoned by the NGT had tried to evade responsibility in the case. On one hand, AOL shrugged off accusations that the damage was caused by its event, saying that the foundation had obtained all necessary permissions, including from the green panel, and the event could have been stopped in the beginning itself if river Yamuna was so fragile and pure.

In separate submissions, the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the Ministry of Water Resources also told the green panel that they were not responsible for the damage to the fragile floodplains, as was alleged by AOL. They said they had "no role" in permitting the cultural extravaganza of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's organisation.

"Delhi Development Authority (DDA) granted the permission for holding the function on the floodplains. AOL conducted the whole event. We had no role to play in this and we are not liable to pay for the damages," the ministries told the NGT.

The NGT also slammed DDA for casting aspersions on the findings of its expert committee about damage caused to the Yamuna floodplains.

A bench headed by NGT chairperson, justice Swatanter Kumar, took exception to the submission of the counsel for DDA, who questioned the conclusions of the seven-member expert panel.

"It is not fair. 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," the bench said.

The DDA counsel said he did not intend to cast aspersions and was just questioning the basis of the findings and technology used by the experts panel.

Earlier, an expert committee had told the NGT that a whopping Rs 42.02 crore would be required to restore Yamuna floodplains, which was ravaged due to the cultural extravaganza.

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date: May 11, 2017 14:50 PM

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