This story has been updated to include a statement by an Art of Living spokesperson.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art Of Living foundation has been fined Rs 120 crore for damaging the endangered ecology of Yamuna. According to a Mail Today report, a panel appointed by the National Green Tribunal has found that the World Culture Festival that Art of Living Foundation is slated to organise will cause grievous harm to the Yamuna flood plains near Noida where a massive venue is being erected for it.
The panel has also sought a revision of the plans for the festival.
"We are strongly of the view this amount (Rs 100-120 crores) should be collected from the Art of Living Foundation before the event and kept in a separate account monitored by the honourable NGT. The entire ecological restoration of Yamuna's (affected) sites must be completed within a year from the date of the completion of the festival, March 13, 2016," India Today quotes the panel as saying.
A venue spread over 1,000 acres is coming up on the banks of the Yamuna, which includes a 40-ft-high stage, portable cabins and huts to accommodate visitors and a makeshift parking lot. The National Green Tribunal ordered an investigation on the complaint of environmental activist Manoj Misra.
While investigating, the NGT panel found that small water bodies too have been filled up. All natural vegetation, including several big trees, have been removed and destroyed. As a result all natural life has disappeared from the area, including birds and other animals dependant on the vegetation cover.
The world culture festival intends to host guests from 155 countries, apart from India. According to the Mail Today report, 35,000 musicians alone will participate in the festival.
Reacting to the order, the Art of Living Foundation's Gautam Vig told Mail Today that they had followed all rules specified by the DDA and it was not right to blame the organisation for the damage caused to the environment. He said, "In 2010, we initiated the Meri Dilli, Meri Yamuna for which Sri Sri Ravi Shankar pulled out plastic and filth from the river. We have also planted 55 lakh saplings."
An Art of Living spokesperson has issued the following statement:
"The Art of Living has a huge regard for the environment. We have never violated nor do we have any intention to violate any laws of the country. We have followed and further undertake to follow all the guidelines, recommendations, directions of the honourable court and the authorities extending us the permission to hold the World Culture Festival. The Art of Living in strict adherence to the NGT direction has not done any construction/concretization at the World Culture festival site. Further, we have used only eco-friendly material like wood, mud, cloth, and scaffolding towards building a temporary stage for the purpose of holding a three-day festival. The Art of Living under Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has been tirelessly working since 35 years now for environmental good which specifically includes work done towards restoration of dying rivers in the country along with the huge work done by thousands of Art of Living volunteers in Meri Dilli Meri Yamuna campaign in 2010. During this campaign, exceptional mass awareness was built up among Delhi citizens to save the river Yamuna”.
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