Compensation of Rs. 5 crores imposed upon Art of Living Foundation for “environmental damage” due to construction on flood plains of Yamuna for “World Culture Festival”

National Green Tribunal (NGT): NGT refused to issue a prohibitory order and a mandatory direction for removal of construction on the flood plains of the Yamuna for ‘World Culture Festival’, a three-day cultural extravaganza organised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living Foundation. However, NGT imposed an initial “Environmental Compensation” of Rs. 5 crores, upon the Foundation for the damage caused to the environment, ecology, bio-diversity and aquatic life of the river due to construction activity on the flood plains of Yamuna. This order of the Tribunal came upon an application filed by the convener of an NGO, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, seeking stay against spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s “World Culture Festival”, to be held on March 11-13, 2016 in New Delhi. The applicant alleged violation of an earlier order passed by the green tribunal which prohibited any further construction activity in the demarcated flood plain. The applicant also alleged that there were several violations for construction on the flood plains, including the dumping of construction debris, building pontoon bridges and destruction of floodplains. The applicanter further claimed that a large number of birds and other “natural life” had been impacted by the work. After perusing all the material on record, NGT observed that due to construction activities on the flood plains of Yamuna for the Festival, the flood plains have been drastically tampered with while destroying the natural flow of the river, reeds, grasses, natural vegetation on the river bed. It further observed that the construction activities also disturbed the aquatic life of the river and destroyed water bodies and wet lands on the flood plains. While imposing a fine of Rs. 5 crores upon the Foundation, NGT directed the Foundation to obtain all required permissions from the Delhi Police, Fire Department, Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, which have been not yet obtained. The Tribunal also fined Delhi Development Authority Rs 5 lakh and Delhi Pollution Control Board Rs 1 lakh for not conducting proper inspections and granting permission for the event despite a standing order by the NGT that states that no activity will be conducted on the floodplains of River Yamuna. NGT also obtained an undertaking given by the Foundation that it will not release any kind of Enzymes into River Yamuna, its tributaries or any water bodies henceforth without procuring due permission of Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC). The Foundation was directed to remove certain material deficiencies/discrepancies pointed out by the Police Department of Delhi in its letter to Ministry of Urban Development. [Manoj Misra v. Delhi Development Authority, 2016 SCC OnLine NGT 114, decided on March 9, 2016]

To read the Order, click HERE

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