New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal on April 22 reserved its order in the Art of Living case pertaining to assessment by an expert committee of the damage to the Yamuna floodplains due to the preparations and conduct of the mega cultural event, the World Culture Festival, in March this year.
The tribunal, which had on April 21 pulled up the Art of Living Foundation for allegedly preventing the expert committee from visiting the floodplains on April 15, heard the counsel of both Art of Living and the land owning agency, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), as also the petitioner Manoj Mishra of the Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, before reserving its order.
The counsel for the Art of Living Foundation moved an application before the court seeking a clarification as to how the experts committee was quantifying the damages caused by the Art of Living event and demanded to know the basis thereof. The counsel for AOL contended that whatever amount was imposed the Foundation as a consequence of its holding the cultural event should have some rationale basis. How has the damage been quantified, the Art of Living demanded to know.
It argued that the experts committee had just visited the area and had a look at it. As such, the foundation questioned how could the expert committee, on the basis of a mere view, come to the conclusion that the event caused huge ecological damage.
Opposing this contention of the defendant, petitioner Manoj Mishra reminded the tribunal that the order had already been passed by it and Art of Living was supposed to abide by it. But he claimed that instead of following the order of the tribunal, the Foundation had just moved an application in the garb of a review. At this, the tribunal reserved its order without specifying any date.
The tribunal on March 9 had imposed an environmental compensation on Art of Living Foundation for causing damage to the floodplains and had asked it to deposit the amount with the DDA before the three-day cultural event which began on March 11. It had also stated that the actual extent of the loss would be determined by the expert committee and that the site would be later converted into biodiversity park, which would be partly funded by the final amount of the environmental compensation imposed on the Foundation.
But there was a delay in the Foundation vacating the site and the inspection by the expert committee. Also, the foundation has so far deposited only an amount of 25 lakh rupees with DDA.
On April 21 the tribunal when told that the expert committee had not been able to inspect the site on April 15, asked the foundation on whose authority it had barred the panel. In reply, the foundation had submitted that the cleaning operations were underway when the panel members had visited the site.
Its counsel said “The high-powered committee came with JCBs to collect sample of land. We asked them to come after we handed over the site to the Delhi Development Authority.” He submitted that the clean up was finally completed on April 18 and the site was handed over to DDA.