Notwithstanding raging controversies, the National Green Tribunal on Wednesday cleared the decks for the three-day cultural extravaganza of Art of Living on the flood plains of Yamuna river from Friday but imposed a fine of Rs five crores on it as environmental compensation.
After posing tough questions, the tribunal also slapped fine of Rs five lakh on DDA and Rs one lakh on Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) for not discharging statutory functions.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar, asked AOL, headed by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to deposit Rs five crores as environmental compensation before the event begins on March 11.
The NGT clearance came on a day the Delhi High Court described the event, from whose valedictory function the President has already pulled out, as a disaster from the ecological point of view.
The tribunal also asked AOL to give an undertaking by tomorrow that enzymes will not be released into Yamuna river and that no further degradation of environment will happen.
Besides slapping the fines, the tribunal directed AOL to develop the entire area in question into a biodiversity park.
The tribunal's order came on the pleas by NGOs and environmentalists who had sought cancellation of the festival on the ground that it would seriously endanger the fragile ecosystem on the riverbed. Environmental activist Anand Arya, who filed the petition to stop the event, rued that over 1000-acres of the sensitive area between Delhi and Noida, predominantly marshland, stand shorn of even a "single blade" of grass.
Another petitioner Manoj Mishra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan questioned the "legality" of the event, and said the area, being destroyed "every moment", will take a long time to recover and slammed the organisers for the "lack of understanding" on their part.
During two days of hearing, the NGT had posed tough questions over who had given clearance to the 'World Cultural Festival' in which 35 lakh people are expected to participate.
(Feature Image Source: Reuters)