Delhi: In further setback for three-day cultural extravaganza organized by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living (AOL) foundation on the Yamuna flood plains, the National Green Tribunal, a qusai judicial body on environmental issues, posed tough questions on Tuesday regarding the event over which environmentalists have raised a banner of revolt.
The event drew criticism after some activists petitioned the NGT asking it to stop the event as it would have a deep impact on the Yamuna flood plains.
The three-day event is due to be held from March 11-13 to celebrate 35 years of the foundation.
The NGT also questioned the Centre as to why no environmental clearance was needed for constructing of temporary structures on Yamuna plains.
"You (MoEF) file an affidavit by tomorrow and tell us why no environmental clearance is needed for raising temporary structures in flood plains," a bench headed by NGT chairperson Swantanter Kumar said.
The direction came after counsel appearing for Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) said that they have found no debris at the site, when an expert team had visited and as per Environment Impact Assessment notification 2006, no environment clearance is needed for temporary structures.
The Green Panel also questioned the building up of pontoon bridge by the Army on river Yamuna for the festival, and asked the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) counsel as who gave the permission for setting it up.
DDA, Delhi government, MoEF said that they have no relation with the grant of permission for setting up the pontoon bridge as all the three said that they are concerned only with different issues.
While DDA said it was only required to give no objection certificate for the bridge, Delhi government submitted that its role for the pontoon bridge comes only at the time of flood and MoEF passed the buck on Ministry of Water Resources.
Advocate Rajiv Bansal appearing for DDA backed the authority's decision to grant permission for the event saying that it has given the nod with conditions that no permanent construction will be permitted without permission from the competent authority.
"The area is meant for recreational activity. The area is with DDA and it is the competent authority. Permission was granted after taking proper legal opinion which was conditional that no permanent structure will be constructed and also that it will be subject to permissions from other concerned authorities," he said, as per PTI.
On the other hand, AOL in its submission said that it had taken the requisite permissions from all the authorities except from the police which is subject to permission from fire department and they have fulfilled all the conditions.
Counsel for AOL foundation said that it has no instructions about the study of environment impact assessment but it has satisfied the DDA for permission by fulfilling the condition that no permanent structures will be constructed on flood plains.
AOL said that no concretization has been done, no permanent structure has been built and only wood, clothes and bamboo is being used at the site.
Reacting to the controversy, Sri Sri today said that his organisation would build a "biodiversity park" in that area and rubbished allegations of ecological harm.
He told reporters that not a single tree had been cut in the run up to the World Cultural Festival to be held between March 11-13 and that four trees had only been trimmed in the riverine area.
"Villagers said that their buffaloes never went near the water in the past. Now I have been informed by the them that those buffaloes have entered the water. The villagers are very happy," he said, as per PTI.
"We will leave the place after making a biodiversity park there. In the past, our volunteers have brought out 512 tonne of garbage from Yamuna. We have not cut any trees, have just trimmed four. We want a clean Yamuna and we care about the environment," the spiritual guru added.
Meanwhile, yesterday, President Pranab Mukherjee decided to pull out of a cultural extravaganza as a controversy raged over the three-day event on the flood plains of river Yamuna.
"The President cannot attend the function due to unavoidable circumstances," an official of the Rashtrapati Bhavan had said.
The AOL foundation will have yoga and meditation sessions, peace prayers by Sanskrit scholars and traditional cultural performances from around the world.
The organisers expect 35 lakh people to attend the function.
(With Agency inputs)