NGT orders the Art of Living Foundation to bear Rs.42 crore environment compensation for restoration of Yamuna floodplains damaged during World Cultural festival

NGT orders the Art of Living Foundation to bear Rs.42 crore environment compensation for restoration of Yamuna floodplains damaged during World Cultural festival

New Delhi, April12:In a report submitted to the National Green Tribunal (NGT), an expert committee it had appointed has said the Art of Living Foundation and other agencies should bear Rs.42 crore environment compensation for restoration of the Yamuna floodplains it damaged during its World Culture Festival, held last year. The green court released the expert committee’s report on Wednesday. As per the report, reviewed by DNA, Rs.28.73 crore will have to be spent for physical restoration of the floodplains while Rs.13.29 crore will have to be spent for the biological restoration. The physical restoration work has to be taken up immediately to be completed in two years’ time, the report added.

The restoration costs, the committee said, are estimates and need to be strengthened after a detailed project report is prepared. Last year, the expert committee had indicted the NGO and said that its mega event had damaged the floodplains. The Tribunal had then, last August, asked the committee to fix a tentative cost of restoration. The NGO, though, had contested the committee’s composition, accused it of being prejudiced and had even asked for reconstitution of the committee.

The case is listed for next hearing on April 20. In a strongly worded statement, the Art of Living hit out at the report. They hit out at the report being leaked and said that it was ‘expected’.

Kedar Desai, AOL’s spokesperson released a statement saying: The report has been leaked to the media once again even as we were getting hold of our copy. This was expected of them as their malafide intentions to malign us has been evident since the beginning. The Expert Committee of the NGT who were supposed to be non-interested parties to the case and were to act as the eyes and ears of judges have given biased interviews in public while the case is sub-judice.

The head of the NGT’s Expert Committee who was not even a technical person noticed that the figure of Rs 100-120 crore (which was recommended by the committee after one cursory visit to the site) did not have any scientific basis and requested the Hon’ble Chairperson of NGT not to consider it. It is unprecedented that technical persons like Shri CR Babu, Shri AK Gosain and Shri Brij Gopal recommended an arbitrary figure without any scientific basis. Our legal team will have to study the basis of this new figure.

How come Shri CR Babu who is one of the senior-most member of the Committee gave a media interview maligning The Art of Living by concluding that WCF had caused damage even before any assessment was done. This shows bias beyond doubt. The closeness of the petitioner with the expert Committee members was not disclosed to us when the Expert Committee was appointed by NGT and went into the preparation of the report. They are caught in their own web of misdeeds.

We have been victims of a conspiracy. And we will fight for the truth to come out. The Art of Living is a responsible and environment-sensitive NGO. We have never caused any damage to the environment but have in fact worked for preserving and reviving it through various environment-related projects over the years. Our legal team will study the report and decide on the appropriate future course of action.