Sri Sri Ravishankar's Art of Living (AoL) has termed as ‘unscientific and illogical’ a National Green Tribunal (NGT) panel's report, which held that the three-day ‘World Cultural Festival’ completely damaged to the Yamuna floodplains.
"The area was not notified as wetlands but as floodplains only. In the Delhi Wetland Atlas, there is no mention of any wetland at the site where the event was held. The Committee, in its report, has not quantified the damage. Earlier, it had estimated the damage at Rs. 120 crore. Now they are saying...they cannot provide a figure," AoL lawyer Kedar Desai and environment expert Prabhakar Rao said.
Demanding a fresh probe by an ‘unbiased’ panel, AoL said that that "no damage was caused to the environment due to the event held in March”.
“How can a panel go against their own estimate? The Committee has submitted two satellite images only. One of the period before the event and the other of the period after it was wrapped up. We have requested the NGT to set up an unbiased committee. Our application is yet to be taken up by the tribunal,” Rao said.
Stating that multiplicity of data is required to assess the exact situation, Rao said, “Even the weeds in the river cleared by the government by spending crores of rupees were claimed to be damaged by the event. We have provided scientific data to prove that no damage was done by the event.”
Desai said that AoL has faith in the judiciary and “hope that the NGT will ensure justice”.
“We will again submit our objections to the report to NGT and seek fresh unbiased committee probe," he said.
The tribunal had directed the seven-member expert committee headed by Shashi Shekhar, Secretary of Ministry of Water Resources, and senior scientists and experts from National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, IIT, Delhi and other agencies to inspect the site.
The committee, in its 47-page report, has observed that entire floodplain area used for the main event site i.e. between DND flyover and the Barapulla drain (on the right bank of river Yamuna) "has been completely destroyed, not simply damaged".
"The ground is now totally levelled, compacted and hardened and is totally devoid of water bodies or depressions and almost completely devoid of any vegetation," the expert committee had on Tuesday told the tribunal.
The panel has said that due to the event, the floodplain has lost "almost all its natural vegetation" like trees, shrubs, tall grasses, aquatic vegetation including water hyacinth which provides habitat to large number of animals, insects and mud-dwelling organisms.
With PTI Inputs