AFTER PRESENTING arguments pertaining to the state of the site where the World Culture Festival was held last year, in front of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) Tuesday, festival organiser Art of Living (AOL) Foundation talked about the “environmental work” it has carried out in India.
When the AoL counsel requested the bench for some time to talk about the organisation, the bench headed by NGT chairperson Swatanter Kumar said AoL was a “known organisation”.
An expert committee had, in April this year, told the NGT that Rs 42.02 crore would be required to restore the Yamuna floodplains, which was ravaged due to a cultural extravaganza organised by AOL. 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.
“We have filed an affidavit about environmental work. We had undertaken a project for Yamuna cleaning and we have done work in other parts of the world,” said AOL counsel Nikhil Sakhardande. “We are not some industrialists who profited from this.”
The bench, however, pointed out that was not the issue here.
In the written submission made to the NGT, AOL has listed nine initiatives that they have carried out, including “but not limited to rejuvenation of water bodies and rivers”. Among the listed initiatives are the ‘Meri Dilli Meri Yamuna’ campaign; initiatives to clean waste and revive Kerala’s river Pamba; initiatives to overcome severe drought situation along with deepening; widening and cleaning of rivers, nalas and lakes in Maharashtra. The affidavit also states that AOL’s efforts have led to improvement and revival of the state of 21 rivers, two lakes, 46 streams and one reservoir.
Meanwhile, AOL also told the NGT that debris already existed on the WCF site before the event took place. The NGT noted that AOL’s submission was at odds with affidavits submitted by Delhi Development Authority, Delhi Metro and the Delhi government, which claimed that debris had been entirely cleared from the Yamuna floodplains.
The bench directed these authorities to make submissions stating the extent of debris removed by each of these authorities. “You have filed affidavits before us in the main Yamuna case stating that debris from the floodplains of Yamuna have been removed. However, they (AOL) are saying something different. You address us on that behalf,” the bench said.