The Art of Living Foundation on Monday refuted the allegations that its three-day mega event had damaged the Yamuna floodplains and hinted that it may approach the Supreme Court against the National Green Tribunal’s order which asked it to pay Rs.5 crore as compensation.
The Foundation has deposited Rs.4.75 crore “environment compensation” with the Delhi Development Authority as directed by the NGT for damaging Yamuna’s biodiversity during its ‘World Culture Festival’ in March.
Noting that the matter was subjudice with the NGT, Art of Living experts said they are yet to present their evidence to the Tribunal.
“Our legal team is studying the NGT order. The Supreme Court is on vacation. We will soon take an appropriate step,” Art of Living’s spokesman Kedar Desai told reporters here.
Art of Living’s legal and environmental experts even displayed satellite images and photographs to claim that no environmental damage was done to the Yamuna floodplains.
The Art of Living claimed that there has been no scientific assessment of pre and post situation of the floodplains till now.
“There is no scientific assessment of the pre and post situation at Yamuna floodplains where World Culture Festival was held. The judicial process is on and if we win, the money (Rs.5 crore) will be returned to us,” Mr. Desai said.
Environment consultant Prabhakar Rao showed a 1986 survey of India map and claimed that the allegation of damage to wetland along the Yamuna was “wrong” since no such wetland existed there.
Charge of damage
He also refuted other allegations of change of land form at Yamuna floodplains and damage to local biodiversity, showing satellite images and site photographs of flora and fauna.
“The charge of damage to Yamuna floodplains is not correct since the World Culture Festival’s core venue was spread over just 24.44 acres,” he said.
The allegations of damage to land form through construction of roads and ramps and levelling of floodplains were also dismissed by Mr. Rao.
“The area where the event was held was under cultivation of vegetables since at least a decade. So it was already levelled and we did not undertake much levelling.
“It was also alleged that we constructed road and ramps but a 2007 image showed that those were constructed during an event organised by a media house in that year,” he claimed showing a 2005 satellite image.
The much talked-about mega stage constructed over 7 acre of land was also designed so as to cause minimum compaction on the floodplains even it incurred higher cost, he claimed.
Art of Living expressed disappointment over the controversy surrounding the World Culture Festival, saying even foreign countries were interested in hosting the event.
“Even while the World Culture Festival was going on, we were invited by three countries, including Australia, to hold such an event there.
“It feels bad. As a country we should have felt proud over the event which saw participation from people from 155 countries,” Mr. Desai said.