NGT clears World culture festival, but with a Rs 5 crore slap on the wrist

NGT also asked AoL to give an undertaking by tomorrow that enzymes will not be released into Yamuna river and that no further degradation of environment will happen.

Written by Kedar Nagarajan | New Delhi | Updated: March 10, 2016 10:30 am
World culture festival, sri sri ravi shankar event, art of living event, NGT, National Green Tribunal, DND flyover, art of living foundation, delhi news Nearly 37,000 artistes are expected to perform at the festival.

THE National Green Tribunal (NGT) Wednesday cleared the three-day World Culture Festival to be organised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living on the floodplains of the Yamuna from March 11 but imposed a fine of Rs 5 crore on AOL as an interim compensation for the event’s impact on the environment.

A bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar directed AOL to deposit the fine before the event begins. It stated that the amount would be adjusted against final compensation to be determined based on a study to be conducted by a tribunal-mandated panel.

Watch video | Sri Sri Event Gets NGT Go-Ahead: The Details

The tribunal asked the committee to submit a report within four weeks, ascertaining the steps and cost of restoration work at the site.

While ordering AOL to construct a biodiversity park in the area, the tribunal also levied fines of Rs 5 lakh and Rs 1 lakh, respectively, on the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) for lapses while granting clearances.

READ: Full text of NGT judgment on Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s World Culture Festival

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It came down heavily on DDA and DPCC and termed as “unacceptable” the Union Environment Ministry’s submission that AOL did not require environmental clearance for the event. The tribunal, however, noted that the various petitioners, including NGOs and activists, had not challenged the permission granted on June 30, 2015, by DDA for the event.

Reacting to the NGT order, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of AOL, stated in a tweet on his official account that he was not “satisfied” and that the foundation would appeal the order.

Watch Video | World Culture Festival: NGT Asks Centre To Explain Clearances Given

As the hearing got underway, the DDA stuck to its stand that the permission it had granted was legal as the event was of a recreational nature. But the tribunal pointed out that the construction of roads, ramps, pontoon bridges, accumulation of debris, and the alteration of topography and the natural flow of the Yamuna could not be viewed as cultural or recreational activity.

“The DDA ought to have applied its mind. Strangely enough, it has not carried out an inspection of the site prior to granting the permission nor during the operation or subsequent thereto,” the NGT order stated.

On the DPCC, the tribunal stated that it was unable to accept its submission that its consent was not required to carry out construction, and sewage and solid waste disposal measures. The tribunal rejected a similar stance adopted by the Union Environment Ministry and stated that it was contrary to the Environment Impact Assessment notification of 2006, especially regarding construction on land in excess of 50 hectares.

The tribunal further ordered AOL to obtain permission from police, the fire department and the Union Water Resources Ministry — it said all these authorities failed to carry out due diligence.

The tribunal constituted a committee of representatives of DPCC, the Union Environment Ministry and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), which “should immediately” inspect the site and issue directions Thursday in relation to the source of water, and collection and disposal of solid waste and sewerage.

The counsel for AOL submitted that the organisers would not discharge any eco-enzymes into the Yamuna on the days of the event, as initially claimed to minimise the impact of sewage disposal.

Meanwhile, Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharati said her ministry had “no role” in granting or denying any permission to the organisers. The Minister added that she supported the event “as a political leader and social activist”.

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  1. O
    One God
    Mar 9, 2016 at 7:17 pm
    What kind of Art of Living discharges waste into a flowing river. Sounds like AOL does not care about polluting the environment then it begs the question - is it a fraud?
    Reply
    1. H
      Haradhan Mandal
      Mar 9, 2016 at 3:01 pm
      W country seems to have gone looney and bonkers! Poor people on the street or the farmers seem to have no problem in this country - but only Afzal Guru/Yakub Menon, Desh Prem/Desh Bhakti and World SPIRITUAL Culture? 1 Lakh Crore (per GOVT figure) has just 'vanished' as BAD loan from PSU banks in just nine months in FY16, one gentleman has already left (vanished?) the country while the hearing of the case is/going on ???
      Reply
      1. K
        Keerthana
        Mar 9, 2016 at 2:56 pm
        Why do we scoff and scorn at everything in this country?? There are so many anti India and anti Hindu campaigns in our country. Why do we criticuze a good move then?? Are we becoming a nation that supports the wrong and condemns the right?? This meet is going to host people from 150 countries and is expected to showcase Indian cultural values and yoga. Thank God the parliament of religions had no opposition. The organisation is going to clean the Yamuna and convert the 7 acres into a teemibg rich bio diversity area in the coming years. Let's encourage the effort.
        Reply
        1. M
          MyTake
          Mar 9, 2016 at 6:28 pm
          Another option: since Govt. collects funds from Hindu Temples may be the Govt. now can come forward to pay the "fine" to facilitate the event (if they consider it is an Hindu event). If it is not considered an Hindu event then certainly it is not a private one so should get more support from the Govt. Unlike other religion Hindu religion is not run privately in India and they don't get discounted facilities like others get so one can not beat "Hindus" with both end of the stick. Probably this development now has the great opportunity to address this issue and show ones stand clear.
          Reply
        2. M
          MyTake
          Mar 9, 2016 at 6:20 pm
          In the early days of ISKCON it was felt that Congress Govt. might not give permission for then "CIA AGENTS" to set up the Mayapur project by its founder. The ISKCON authorities in charge then were thinking about moving the centre to Bangladesh instead, if they fail to have it in Bengal. Even though BJP is in power people of same Congress mentality still are in position of power insutionwise who will repeat the same thing again and again. May be Sri Sri need to have second plans from now on.
          Reply
          1. M
            MyTake
            Mar 9, 2016 at 6:13 pm
            One thing AOL can consider is cancel the event and sue the Govt. for losses as it failed to notify it in time and not two days before the event. This will set the bar high for all future events. People will also keep an watch on how permission for future events are given. If AOL is considered religious than Govt. Has a duty to facilitate it since Hindu Temples and ociated activities are not independent like others and are under the control of the Govt., from where Govt. also collects the money. Govt. has to spent this money somewhere by looking after them.
            Reply
          2. M
            MyTake
            Mar 10, 2016 at 7:40 am
            So far what good things NGT has done? No one heard of them before for any good enough reason!
            Reply
          3. M
            MyTake
            Mar 10, 2016 at 2:17 am
            AOL has been doing many environmentally friendly projects without NGT's "valuable" advice! If NGT can find a new front to compete with AOL or atleast do quarter the things AOL is doing that will be more helpful!
            Reply
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