NGT gives nod to World Culture Festival, slaps Rs 5 crore fine on AOL; Sri Sri to challenge order

 

The National Green Tribunal on Wednesday cleared the decks for the three-day cultural extravaganza of Art of Living (AOL) on the flood plains of Yamuna river from Friday but imposed a fine of Rs five crores on it as environmental compensation.

After posing tough questions, the tribunal also slapped fine of Rs five lakh on DDA and Rs one lakh on Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) for not discharging statutory functions.

“All (government) authorities have failed to fulfill their duties,” said the principal bench of Justice Swatanter Kumar, Justice MS Nambiar, Justice DK Agrawal and Justice BS Sajwan.

“For the damage caused to environment, ecology, biodiversity and aquatic life of the river, the foundation should be held liable for its restoration in all respects,” said the bench.

“What is your primary duty? Do you believe Art of Living has not done any damage to the environment,” the bench added, even describing the city pollution committee “incompetent” and failing to discharge its duties, as per IANS.

“For the damage caused to the environment, ecology, biodiversity and aquatic life of the river, the Foundation should be held liable for its restoration in all respects. In that regard and in exercise of our powers under Sections 15 and 17 of the NGT Act, 2010, we impose an Environmental Compensation, initially of Rs 5 crores,” the green panel said.

The bench said this amount would be paid by AOL prior to commencement of the event and would be adjusted towards final compensation determined to be paid by it for restoration work.

The tribunal 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.

Besides slapping the fines, the tribunal directed AOL to develop the entire area in question into a biodiversity park.

Another petitioner Manoj Mishra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan questioned the “legality” of the event, and said the area, being destroyed “every moment”, will take a long time to recover and slammed the organisers for the “lack of understanding” on their part, as per PTI.

The NGT clearance came on a day the Delhi High Court described the event, from whose valedictory function the President has already pulled out, as a disaster from the ecological point of view.

The AOL event figured in Parliament on Wednesday with the some Opposition parties questioning how the government deployed the Indian Army to construct pontoon bridges for the event.

Delhi Police have also flagged their concerns about managing security in view of large gathering on the Yamuna flood plains and also about the “structural stability” of the venue.

However, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that controversies over the event should now end in view of National Green Tribunal order.

“Now that NGT (National Green Tribunal) has given its verdict, all politics and controversies around AOL event should be put to rest. It’s a huge cultural event to which people from 155 countries are coming. Delhi welcomes all guests,” Kejriwal tweeted.

On the other hand, late in the night, the AOL announced that it will appeal against the NGT order. Any challenge to the NGT order usually lies with the Supreme Court.

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