AOL Blames Govt For Giving Permission To Hold World Culture Festival Near Yamuna

It has been a little over a year since the World Culture Festival on the banks of river Yamuna caused its degradation, and a fresh round of battle between NGO Art of Living (AOL) and India’s top green court has begun.

“You have no sense of responsibility. Just because you have filed an application does not give you the liberty to say whatever you want to. It is shocking,” a bench of the National Green Tribunal told Art of Living on Thursday.

The observations expressing shock came after Art of Living, a non-profit organisation headed by spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, made allegations of impropriety against NGT’s expert panel.

Art of Living has made allegations against Prof. C.R. Babu, a member of the expert panel. and Manoj Misra, an environmental activist and a petitioner in the case.

The expert panel had suggested that there would be two components of rehabilitation plan — physical and biological, which would cost Rs. 28.73 crore and Rs. l3.29 crore, respectively, besides additional ancillary expenses.

On its part, Art of Living refused to accept blame and said the government would be responsible for any environmental degradation because it was the government that allowed the event to be held, giving necessary permissions.

Advocate Sanjay Parikh, appearing for the petitioners, read out statements put up on Art of Living’s website stating that the blame lies solely with the government and also invited all ‘honest’ environmentalists to study the case and ‘unveil’ the truth.

“If river Yamuna was so ‘fragile and pure’, the event could have been stopped in the beginning itself,” the note read.

The NGT had allowed the event to take place between March 11 and March 13 last year and had directed Art of Living to pay an initial fine of Rs. 5 crore.

The NGT had held that the issue was “fait accompli” and had set up an expert body comprising Prof. A.K. Gosain, Prof. Brij Gopal, Prof. C.R. Prabhu and Shashi Shekhar, secretary, ministry of water resources, to identify the steps required to be taken for the restoration and rejuvenation of the Yamuna floodplains.

A fine of Rs. 5 lakh was imposed on the Delhi Development Authority for granting permission to the event without inspecting the site before or after the work for the event began. Even the Delhi Pollution Control Committee was asked to pay a fine of Rs. 1 lakh.

The case will now be heard on May 9, after all the parties file their objections to the expert panel report.

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