Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on Tuesday said the Centre, Delhi government and the National Green Tribunal (NGT) should be held responsible for allowing his foundation to organise the World Culture Festival on the Yamuna floodplains in March 2016 — if any environmental damage was caused.
“If, at all, any fine has to be levied, it should be levied on the Central and state governments and the NGT itself, for giving the permission. If the Yamuna was so fragile and pure, they should have stopped the World Culture Festival,” said Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in a statement issued on Tuesday.
The tribunal had allowed the festival on March 11-13, 2016, saying that as the matter was ‘fait accompli’, they could not ban it. The three-day World Cultural Festival of Art of Living soon grabbed headlines for allegedly polluting and harming the ecosystems at the Yamuna floodplains.
An interim environment compensation of Rs5 crore was imposed on the foundation for its alleged ‘environment damaging activities’ by the NGT while efforts were made to ascertain the exact cost of the damage.
“World over, cultural programmes are held on riverbanks. The whole idea was to bring awareness to save the river. The Art of Living that has rejuvenated 27 rivers, planted 71 million trees, revived several ponds is being projected as destroying a dead river. What a joke,” said Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
Even though the petitioner in the case and convener of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, Manoj Misra, chose to reserve his comments on Tuesday, he had earlier said: “I have already stated in the petition submitted to the NGT that any activity on the Yamuna floodplains would be violating the green court’s earlier order and would prove detrimental to the floodplain.”
“The Art of Living had obtained all the necessary permission including the NGT’s. The NGT had the application file for two months and they could have stopped it in the beginning. It defies all principles of natural justice that you give permissions and slap a fine for not violating any rules,” the statement read.
An expert panel, headed by Shashi Shekhar, secretary of ministry of water resources, submitted a report to the NGT, stating that it would take more than Rs 42 crore and at least 10 years to rehabilitate the floodplain after the damage caused by the three-day festival in March 2016.
“I invite all honest environmentalists to study the case and unveil the truth,” he said.