In a big blow to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living foundation, a National
Green Tribunal (NGT) appointed committee of experts has concluded that the World Culture Festival of The Art of Living foundation held in March this year has destroyed the entire floodplain, leading to invisible loss of biodiversity, which may never return, reported The Indian Express
The report submitted by the panel headed by Shashi Shekhar, Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, to NGT says, “the entire floodplain area used for the main event site, i.e. between the DND flyover and Barapullah drain (on the right bank of river Yamuna) has been completely destroyed, not simply destroyed. The ground is now totally levelled, compacted and hardened, totally devoid of water bodies or depressions, and almost completely devoid of any vegetation (except a few large cattails at the base of of the DND flyover)”.
Speaking to the newspaper, The Art of Living has refuted the report and said that the NGT is yet to hear their application for reconstitution of the commitee and the allegations of environmental damage are unscientific, biased and unsustianable. The NGT will hear the matter next on September 28.
The Art of Living was fined RS 5 cr as an interim compensation by the NGT in March this year for degrading the environment and were also asked to give an undertaking stating that no further harm would be done. A seven acre stage was built and tents were erected as 3.5 million people visited the mega event. NGT said the temporary construction could cause irreversible damage to the biodiversity. President Pranab Mukherjee, who was supposed to attend the event backed out, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi did attend. AOL founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said he was not satisfied with the fine of Rs 5 crore and would appeal against it.