India

AoL "responsible" for damage to Yamuna floodplains, rules NGT

07 Dec 2017 | By Gogona Saikia

Based on a report by an expert committee, the NGT has held Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living (AOL) for "responsible" damaging the Yamuna floodplains.

However, it has refused to levy additional fines on AOL, which has already deposited Rs. 5cr. A panel had estimated restoration costs at Rs. 42.02cr.

If restoration costs exceed Rs. 5cr, AOL shall pay the balance, NGT ruled.

In context: 'Art of Living responsible for Yamuna floodplain damage'

07 Dec 2017AoL "responsible" for damage to Yamuna floodplains, rules NGT

EventAoL's contentious 'World Cultural Festival' red-flagged by NGT

The AoL Foundation announced its 'World Culture Festival' from March 11-13, 2016, in Delhi.

However, the event was flagged by the NGT for damaging the environment and particularly the Yamuna bed.

'Save the Yamuna Abhiyaan' NGO filed a petition alleging that the construction of structures alongside the river was banned by the NGT.

FinesNGT slaps Rs. 5cr fine on AoL

On March 10, 2016, NGT slapped a fine of Rs. 5cr on the Foundation as environmental compensation. AoL only paid Rs. 25L.

On June 7, 2016, after much deliberation, AoL deposited the remaining Rs. 4.75cr.

The foundation reiterated its stance that though they had deposited the money, they have not caused any damage to the environment.

Damage10 years, Rs. 42cr needed to restore Yamuna bed: Experts

In its report to the NGT, a team of experts said that the damage done to the Yamuna banks by AoL's cultural festival will take 10 years to be undone.

Furthermore, it said that the cost of restoring the floodplains may reach Rs. 42cr along with extensive hard work.

The report said the riverbed was completely destroyed.

More fines: DPCC and DDA fined too

The NGT also slapped fines of Rs. 5L on the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and Rs.1L on the Delhi Pollution Control Committee for dereliction of duty. A fine of Rs. 5,000 was imposed on Sri Sri Ravishankar for filing a 'baseless' plea against NGT's judgement.

AoLAoL to challenge NGT's verdict in the SC

The NGT has now asked the DDA to assess the damage and compute restoration costs. If expenses fall below Rs. 5cr, the balance would be refunded to AoL.

DDA listed its plans under the Yamuna Floodplain Development Program and said tendering would take seven-eight months.

However, the AoL said it "doesn't agree" with the verdict. "We'll appeal in the SC," its counsel said.