Delhi Development Authority on Thursday told the National Green Tribunal the Art of Living Foundation did not inform it about the scale of the three-day cultural festival to be held on the Yamuna floodplains and is constructing temporary structures without any permission.
The foundation headed by spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar denied the charges.
The ground which is being prepared for the World Culture Festival, to be held between March 11 and 13, is spread over an area of 1,000 acres. The stage alone is seven acres in area and will accommodate 37,000 artists.
According to DDA, it never gave a permission for such construction.
DDA’s counsel told NGT chairperson justice Swatanter Kumar the foundation had sought permission for setting up a platform and not a stage of this scale and had not informed them that millions of people are expected to attend the event.
He added that DDA had given the foundation the permission to hold the event only in a limited area but the organisers had spread out without permission.
The Art of Living counsel, however, said the foundation had told DDA about the number of people expected to attend the event a year in advance and also submitted a site plan.
“We had got permission from DDA and the authority had a clear understanding of the scale of the event. The estimates for the number of people expected to attend are for the entire three-day event, including events not happening on the floodplain. The letter of request sent to DDA stated clearly what the function was about. We will clarify this in the tribunal when we are given the chance,” Saraswati Akshama Nath, who appeared on behalf of Art of Living, said.
“We have the permission for the area where the stage will be and where people will sit on chairs and carpets from DDA. We also have the permission to build pontoon bridges on the land owned by the UP irrigation department,” he added.
DDA’s counsel also told the tribunal the foundation had also been asked to take permission to remove any debris from the floodplain.
“DDA wrote to the Art of Living in December and informed them they would have to take permission from the NGT if they wanted to remove any debris,” the counsel said.
The tribunal, which is holding a day-to-day hearing from Wednesday on the case, pulled up DDA for allowing an event of such a massive scale to take place on the floodplain, where any permanent construction is banned.
The festival has drawn criticism from environmentalists and farmers alike for allegedly causing irreversible damage to the ecologically fragile zone.
Environmental activist Manish Misra had moved the NGT against the event.