New Delhi: Notwithstanding the raging controversies, the National Green Tribunal yesterday cleared the decks for the three-day cultural event of Art of Living (AoL) on the floodplains of Yamuna from Friday but imposed a fine of Rs 5 crore on it as environmental compensation.
Army personnel construct temporary bridges over Yamuna for the three-day festival. Pic/PTI
After posing tough questions, the tribunal also slapped fines of Rs 5 lakh on DDA and Rs 1 lakh on Delhi Pollution Control Committee for not discharging statutory functions.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar, asked AoL, headed by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to deposit R5 crore as environmental compensation before the event begins on March 11.
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 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. The tribunal’s order came on the pleas filed by NGOs and environmentalists who had sought cancellation of the festival on the ground that it would seriously endanger the fragile ecosystem on the riverbed.
Environmentalist Anand Arya, who filed the petition to stop the event, rued that over 1000-acres of the sensitive area between Delhi and Noida, predominantly marshland, stand shorn of even a ‘single blade’ of grass.
Another petitioner, Manoj Mishra, from 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.
During two days of hearing, the NGT had posed questions over who had given clearance to the ‘World Cultural Festival’ in which 35 lakh people are expected to participate.
‘Environment clearances not needed’
The Centre yesterday said such temporary programmes “do not” require environment clearances.
“NGT has given permission to them. We had already clarified to NGT that these kinds of programmes and temporary structures do not require environmental clearances under the environmental law and environment notification,” Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadedar said.