The Art of Living Foundation has requested the National Green Tribunal an extension of date for submitting their response to the tribunal-appointed committee’s report, which said that the Yamuna floodplain was “completely destroyed” because of the three-day World Culture Festival in March.
An Art of Living spokesperson told Hindustan Times on Wednesday that they will challenge the “unfounded conclusions that they (the committee members) have drawn without giving any substantial proof”.
The tribunal had directed a seven-member expert committee headed by Shashi Shekhar, secretary in the ministry of water resources, and senior scientists and experts from National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, IIT, Delhi and other agencies to inspect the site.
The committee, earlier this month in its 47-page report, had observed that entire floodplain area used for the main event site, located between DND flyover and the Barapulla drain (on the right bank of river Yamuna) “has been completely destroyed, not simply damaged”.
The Art Of Living has, however, already dubbed this report as “factually incorrect” and demanded a fresh probe by an independent, unbiased and scientific committee to look into the damage, if any.
“The committee has classified the World Culture Festival venue as a wetland. However, the Wetland Atlas of Delhi released recently, the 1986 survey of India map, and many other authentic government documents do not mark this land as a wetland. By labelling it a wetland, the committee has manipulated facts. The truth is this land has always been classified as a floodplain; a sandy floodplain, at that,” Art of Living lawyer Kedar Desai had said.
“Scientifically, the characteristic of sandy soil or a riverbed soil is that it can never be compacted. The claim that the Art of Living flattened the land is completely baseless. The grounds were depicted as a flat land in 1985,” he said.
The NGT has already levied R5 crore as environmental compensation on the foundation.