The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) on Thursday admitted before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that while conducting a site visit in March this year, they found “no violations” to the conditions they had put down before the Art of Living (AoL) while granting permission for the World Culture Festival last year. The AoL also released a statement highlighting DDA’s admission, which said, “The Delhi Development Authority today admitted before the NGT that there was no violation by Art of Living. All conditions for the permissions were adhered to.”
The NGT, meanwhile, pulled up the DDA for its comments on the court-appointed expert committee set up to assess the damage caused to the Yamuna floodplains following the three-day festival organised by Art of Living (AoL) last year. DDA counsel Rajiv Bansal had earlier said that the expert committee’s final report was “as vague as it can possibly be” and questioned why the words of the “engineer” that the committee refers to was taken as “gospel truth”. The court-appointed expert committee has said that it would cost over Rs 42 crore to undo the damage caused to the Yamuna floodplains as a result of the festival.
A bench headed by NGT chairperson Swatanter Kumar said, “The DDA should have exercised proper caution. If they granted permission to you (AoL), then they have some responsibility.”
The bench, on Thursday, took exception to the DDA cousel’s earlier submission and asked if the government body has set up its own expert panel to assess the damage to the floodplains.
“You tell us from your engineer… please call your chief engineer here just now,” the bench said.
In reply, when the DDA counsel said that he had no expertise in the matter, the bench said, “It’s not fair. You cannot make sweeping comments on people who have devoted their lives to environment. We are warning you people that if anybody passes strictures, we will not hesitate to take action against them.”
Bansal, however, clarified that he did not intend to cast aspersions but was just questioning the basis of the findings and the technology used by the expert panel.
Further, the bench asked DDA on what basis had they granted permission to the AoL to hold the festival despite knowing that the venue was part of the “active floodplains” of the Yamuna. “What on earth made you give permission?” the bench asked. The AoL’s counsel, commenced the arguments on Thursday. “I have not breached any condition nor is there is no allegation that any of the conditions we’ve breached,” he said. “There has been no violations of any law.” The matter will be next heard on May 15.