AOL Event destroyed floodplains of Yamuna
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had formed a 7-member expert committee to probe the location of the World Culture Festival held in March 2016. According to the expert committee, the event brought together by Sri Sri Ravishankar's Art of Living (AOL) "completely destroyed" the Yamuna riverbed. The 47-page report stated that the 3-day event led to the loss of "almost all natural vegetation".
The Art of Living (AOL) Foundation was established by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in 1981. It is a volunteer-based educational and humanitarian NGO which has its centres in over 156 countries. It is the world's largest volunteer-based non-governmental organization.
The Foundation had announced that it would organize a 'World Culture Festival' from 11-13th March 2016 at Mayur Vihar, Delhi. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's sister, Bhanumati Narsimhan stated that it would mark AOL's 35 years of "service, humanity, spirituality and human values." Tourism Ministry, Sangeet Natak Academy, Lalit Kala Academy, National School of Drama and Air India extended their support to the event.
The National Green Tribunal had issued notices to AOL, DDA and other organizers of the 'World Culture Festival' at Delhi for damaging the environment. Manoj Mishra of 'Save the Yamuna Abhiyaan' NGO had filed a petition alleging that the organizers were causing damage to the river bed and environment. The petitioner added that construction of structures alongside the river is banned by the NGT.
The President's office had confirmed that the President Pranab Mukherjee wouldn't be attending the 'World Culture Festival' event. New controversies had surrounded the event after 120 soldiers of the 'Corps of Engineers' were seen constructing pontoon bridge structures for the event on the Yamuna. The organizers said that they didn't receive any communication from the President's office regarding the same.
After receiving intelligence reports about the LeT and JeM terrorists infiltrating into India, security arrangements have been stepped-up for Art of Living Foundations' 'World Culture Festival', which would be attended by many VIPs. Delhi Police Commissioner said that special arrangements were made with 1,700 security personnel deployed for the three-day-event. Security arrangements include eagle-commandos, bomb and dog-squads, para-military, NSG and fire department teams.
Rajya Sabha had a heated debate over the 'World Culture Festival' event. There was an uproar regarding the 'irregularities' by the Centre for Sri Sri's event in Delhi. The Opposition demanded explanations on why the army had been roped in for the construction of bridges. Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said Sri Sri was committed to saving the environment.
The National Green Tribunal allowed the Art of Living Foundation's three-day function to proceed on the flood-plains of the Yamuna. While allowing the function to proceed, the NGT slapped a Rs.5 crore fine on the Foundation as environmental compensation. The NGT also slapped fines of Rs.5,00,000 on the Delhi Development Authority and Rs.1,00,000 on the Delhi Pollution Control Committee for dereliction of duty.
Sri Sri Ravishankar said he will not pay the fine imposed by the National Green Tribunal and would appeal against it. Sri Sri said that he would rather go to jail than pay up the fine. The NGT Bench, headed by Swatanter Kumar, said that AOL had time to pay the fine till Friday and law would take its course beyond that.
Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said he will not pay any fine or penalty for the event on the Yamuna floodplains, and instead wholeheartedly support the "development and restoration" of the venue. Ravi Shankar said the amount the NGT had asked AOL to pay was for restoration and not as penalty. He added that the foundation had already deposited Rs.25 lakh.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Tuesday directed Art of Living foundation to pay the remaining Rs.4.75 crore as environment compensation for damages incurred to Yamuna flood plains. Of the Rs.5 crore compensation, AOL had already deposited Rs.25 lakh with the NGT. The NGT also declined AOL's request that the remaining amount of the fine be paid for in bank guarantees.
The National Green Tribunal rejected the Art of Living foundation's plea that it be allowed to pay environmental compensation in bank guarantees. In addition, the NGT slapped another fine of Rs.5000 on Sri Sri Ravishankar for filing a plea that was 'baseless'. The NGT also reprimanded the foundation for consistently attempting to avoid depositing the remaining sum of Rs.4.75 crores.
The Art of Living foundation deposited Rs.4.75 crore environment compensation with the DDA as directed by the National Green Tribunal. The foundation reiterated its stance that though they have deposited the money last week, they have not caused any damage to the environment. Lawyers appearing for the DDA have confirmed that AOL deposited the remaining sum in the form of a demand draft.