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AOL tears into NGT panel report: They want to make us pay

At a press conference The Art of Living Foundation claimed that the findings were based on “satellite pictures of adjoining areas” and aimed at “making AOL pay.”

By: Express News Service | Bengaluru |
Updated: August 18, 2016 4:52:37 am
art of living, sri sri ravi shankar, world culture festival, AOL, yamuna bank, ngt, rajya sabha, ngt art of living, ngt yamuna bank, aol event, yamuna floodplain, sri sri, art of living foundation, national green tribunal, yamuna, opposition, indian government, delhi news, india new The World Culture Festival was held for three days in March on the Yamuna floodplain. Express photo

The Art of Living (AOL) Foundation Wednesday dismissed the findings of a principal committee constituted by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) — on the “destructive” impact of the AOL-organised World Culture Festival on the Yamuna floodplain — saying the panel’s report was “baseless, unscientific and biased.”

At a press conference attended by an array of lawyers and experts representing AOL, the Foundation claimed that the findings were based on “satellite pictures of adjoining areas” and aimed at “making AOL pay.”

The report by the committee, whose findings were reported by The Indian Express Wednesday, had said the “entire floodplain area used for the main event site” has been “completely destroyed”, causing “invisible loss of biodiversity”. The panel had observed, “Most of the ecosystem functions of natural wetlands have been completely lost….This is an ‘invisible’ loss of biodiversity which cannot be easily assessed, and most may never be able to return…”

Prabhakar Rao, an environment and landscape expert, countered the findings of the report, saying, “They have taken satellite pictures of adjoining areas and are claiming we have destroyed the biodiversity. We will contest the report point by point. These are random images used for their own interpretation and are not the full sequence.”

He added, “The images are not linked to our area but they are from some surrounding area.”

Rao further claimed that the festival had caused no environmental damage to the Yamuna floodplain. “It is like a lawn… you trim the lawn and the grass grows back. Would you call lawn-mowing damaging or beneficial? What we have done is only clean the grass, we have not done (any) levelling or compacting,’’ he said.

Kedar Desai, an advocate representing AOL, claimed that the findings were an “effort to substantiate” the earlier assessment of environmental damage worth Rs 120 crore being caused in the Yamuna floodplain by the event.

“A committee which backtracked on estimating the damages at Rs 120 crore may backtrack again. It has no credibility. The report should not be considered. To support the earlier Rs 120 crore assessment, they have come out with this baseless, unscientific and biased report,’’ claimed Desai.

While Desai said AOL has filed an application for reconstitution of the committee, Rao claimed that the NGT panel’s findings were intended to “make AOL pay.’’

Speaking for AOL, another environment expert, Ranjan, said, “Satellite images from 2000-2016 indicate that farming went on unabated in that land. Despite having all this on record, the committee has noted that it is a wetland… that’s impossible.”

Nikhil Sakhardande, a lawyer representing AOL, claimed that the NGT panel’s report was faulty because it “only enumerates the conclusion but does not discuss the means by which the conclusion was arrived at.”

“No methodology that has been adopted is cited in the report. There is no outlining of the reasoning on the basis of which the report has drawn its conclusions. This is a basic flaw in the report from a legal standpoint…,” he added.

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