NGT says AoL damaged Yamuna floodplain, but limits cost to Rs 5cr

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The Art of Living said that the World Culture Festival was conducted from March 11-16, 2016 to spread the message of global peace and harmony in diversity by bringing together spiritual and religious leaders, politicians, peacemakers and artists from across the world.

The National Green Tribunal has held Ravi Shankar's Art of Living responsible for causing damage and environmental degradation of the Yamuna flood plains by holding a three-day cultural festival past year. Slamming DDA for granting nod to AOL, despite three initial rejections the green panel said that the civic body should have exercised proper caution while alloting the area for holding the World Culture Festival. "In the event that the expenditure for that objective is found to be in excess of Rs. 5 crore, the DDA would be at liberty to recover the said amount and respondent number 3 shall be liable to pay the amount", read the judgment. "The DDA has failed to perform its statutory functions of maintaining the ecology".

The panel did not levy any additional penalty on the foundation, and said that the Rs 5-crore fine that Art of Living had paid in 2016 would be used for restoration work. The DDA had told the tribunal that it had plans to beautify the Yamuna riverbed, to plant more trees, develop the wetland and work for the ecological restoration. It had also observed that the exercise could take up to ten years. It had also put forth a timeline saying that 7-8 months would be needed for the tendering process for the two phases of Yamuna Floodplain Development Programme. We will appeal to the Supreme Court.

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The Art of Living, however, expressed its "disappointment" over the NGT order in a statement issued on Thursday. "If it is less, the rest of the amount will be refunded", he said. "We are confident that we will get justice before the Supreme Court", the statement said.

"We hold and declare that AoL is responsible for causing damage and environmental degradation of the flood plain of river Yamuna limited to the area that was awarded to it by DDA and the State of UP, in terms of the report of the High Powered Committee", the NGT said in its judgement.

The Delhi Development Authority will restore the floodplains, the tribunal said.