Delhi

NGT-appointed panel biased, says Art of Living

World Cultural Festival, which was held on the Yamuna floodplains. File Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma

World Cultural Festival, which was held on the Yamuna floodplains. File Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma   | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

“The National Green Tribunal-appointed committee is biased, unscientific and lacks credibility. All facts point to male fide intentions to malign The Art of Living,” is how team Sri Sri Ravi Shankar reacted on Wednesday to a report submitted by the green court-appointed committee.

The panel had evaluated the ecological damage done to the Yamuna floodplains, where the organisation hosted a three-day ‘World Culture Festival’ extravaganza earlier this year.

The seven-member expert committee, headed by Shashi Shekhar, Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, with senior scientists and experts from the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, IIT-Delhi, and other agencies, inspected the site of the World Culture Festival and said that the ecologically-sensitive Yamuna banks had been “completely destroyed” because of the event.

The 47-page report noted that because of the event the floodplains lost “almost all its natural vegetation — trees, shrubs, tall grasses, aquatic vegetation including water hyacinth, which provides habitat to a large number of animals, insects and mud-dwelling organisms.”

“No credibility”

The Art of Living stated in a release: “The expert committee of the NGT is clearly biased…The recent report shows no application of mind. There is no reasoning that supports the conclusions they seem to have come to. There is no analysis, no in-depth investigation nor any test reports to support these conclusions. Once again the conclusion of their report is merely the opinion of the expert committee. How can such a report with no scientific study or no credibility be entertained?”

The organisation added: “A perfunctory inspection was carried out at the World Culture Festival ground before the event. After this, they [the court-appointed committee] came up with a random figure of Rs.120 crore to be paid as compensation. Later, the Art of Living discovered a letter by the Chairman of the expert committee, Mr. Shashi Shekhar, written to the NGT, admitting that this was an ‘inadvertent mistake’. This is clear proof of their premeditated stand.”

Seeking to establish bias, the Art of Living further stated that a member of the expert committee, Prof. C. R. Babu, had been canvassing petitioner Manoj Mishra’s case before the media. It also alleged that another expert committee member, Prof. Brij Gopal, had close connections with Mr. Mishra. “These facts were not disclosed to us before,” it said.

Meanwhile, the NGT committee report has also observed that the entire floodplain area used for the main event site, that is between the DND Flyway and the Barapullah drain had not simply been damaged but completely destroyed.

“Not a notified area”

The Art of Living further claimed that the event used only one per cent of 1,000-acre Yamuna floodplains. “The land allocated for the festival was neither a wildlife sanctuary nor a reserve area nor a designated forest protected by preservation orders. It is not even a notified area. Had it been so, the Art of Living would not have applied for it [permission to hold World Culture Festival on the site] nor been granted permission.”

Adding that they had started work on the site only after all necessary clearances had been received from the Delhi Development Authority and other relevant State and Central government agencies.

“The organisers were careful to ensure that the event adhered strictly to the Delhi Pollution Control Committee’s advisory notes. Far from harming the environment, we left the place cleaner and greener than when we received [it]. The seven-acre stage for the event was set up without a foundation to prevent damage to the soil. The Art of Living categorically states that we did not pollute either the water, or air, or earth in any way,” the organisation said.

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Printable version | Aug 6, 2020 7:14:00 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/NGT-appointed-panel-biased-says-Art-of-Living/article14575974.ece

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