The Art of Living foundation’s grandiose World Culture Festival was inaugurated on Friday after days of controversy surrounded the event that attracted the NGT and high court’s ire for being an “ecological disaster”.
The National Green Tribunal, a specialised body that takes up cases of environmental degradation, had on Wednesday slapped a fine of Rs 5 crore on spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living foundation. The green court, however, allowed the event to continue.
However, the NGT asked the Art of Living Foundation to deposit Rs 25 lakh on Friday and the remaining Rs 4.75 crore in three weeks, after the foundation said it could not pay the full amount within a day’s notice.
The NGT had said earlier that the Rs 5 crore-fine must be paid before the festival is inaugurated.
Environmental groups have accused organisers of ruining the Yamuna river’s fragile ecosystem by damaging its bed and disrupting water flows.
The festival spreads across 1,000 acres on the Yamuna floodplains. It features a 7-acre stage for 35,000 musicians and dancers, newly built dirt tracks and 650 portable toilets.
2-3 lakh people are expected at the three-day festival, which has been termed as a “cultural olympics” by the spiritual leader.