Art of Living Case on Yamuna Flood Plain
This Blog is written by Soumya Bhardwaj from Bennett University, Greater Noida. Edited by Oshin Suryawanshi.
Human actions have an ever-increasing influence on the environment. It is taking place across the world, including in India. We are so enamored with the benefits that nature gives that we frequently overlook the cost to the ecosystem. In today’s world, a complete halt to development efforts is probably unthinkable, since the economy trumps all other concerns.
The Art of Living Foundation, founded in 1981 by Shri Shri Ravi Shankar, is a non-profit organization dedicated to humanitarian and educational causes.
2. From the 11th to the 13th of March 2016, this group hosted a three-day cultural event – the World Cultural Festival – at the Yamuna floodplains in New Delhi. It was held to honour the organization’s 35th anniversary since its foundation.
3. Although the Yamuna River’s banks are regarded to be ecologically sensitive, the festival’s preparations were spectacular. A 7-acre stage, billed as the world’s largest and capable of holding 35,000 musicians and dancers, was built. New dirt tracks were created, as well as 650 portable toilets distributed across 1,000 acres. According to the organizers, 35 lakh people attended the event, with over 20,000 overseas guests.
4. Sri Manoj Mishra, a former officer of the Indian Forest Service, filed Original Application (OA) No 65 of 2016 against the Delhi Development Authority before the National Green Tribunal, Principal Bench, New Delhi, on February 8, 2016. (DDA). The Art of Living (AOL) Foundation, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, and the Art of Living (AOL) Foundation were the responding parties to this OA, in addition to the DDA.
5. On the 11th of December, 2015, Shri Mishra filed a formal complaint against the respondents with the Lt. Governor of Delhi, and then filed the current application with the NGT.
1. Whether the Art of Living Foundation has damaged or is destroying the Yamuna floodplains and wetlands on an ecological, environmental, and biological level.
2. Is the organizers obliged to pay any compensation or penalties for such damage and restore the site to its pre-existing condition in the case of such negative environmental effect and result, if any?
1) Section 33A– The Water Prevention and Control of Pollution Act (1974)
2) Section 6– The Environmental Protection Act (1986)
3) Section 15– The National Green Tribunal Act (2010)
4) Section 17(3)– The National Green Tribunal Act (2010)
5) Section 17– The National Green Tribunal Act (2010)
6) Section 2(c)– The National Green Tribunal Act (2010)
7) Section 26– The National Green Tribunal Act (2010)
8) Article 21– The Constitution of India
9) Article 48A– The Constitution of India
10) Article 51A(g)– The Constitution of India
ARGUMENTS MADE BY THE PETITIONERS
The OA asked that the event be postponed since it would be a disaster for the environment and create a terrible precedent for the future. It was also requested that respondent no. 3 (The Art of Living Foundation) be penalized severely for environmental destruction and be ordered to restore the whole venue to its previous state.
ARGUMENTS MADE BY THE RESPONDENTS
Respondent no. 1- The Delhi Development Authority (DDA), the first respondent, claimed that the land was not completely within its authority.
Respondent no. 2- the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, contended that while the river Yamuna falls under its jurisdiction as a tributary of the Ganga, the structures on the floodplains were modest and transitory, and so did not require approval from the Ministry. It went on to say that the Ministry of Water Resources is responsible for preserving floodplains.
The Art of Living Foundation, the third respondent, claimed that it had all required licenses and certifications from several regulatory agencies before beginning construction. AOL further claimed that because it was not a party to the Yamuna Judgement, it was not bound by its precepts and so could not be held responsible for the damage of the floodplains. Respondent number 3 further alleged that the floodplains had been destroyed long ago due to agricultural operations, trash disposal, and other activities.
The ruling came in response to petitions filed by the Art of Living Foundation (an international NGO), the Delhi Development Authority, and other government agencies, requesting the cancellation of a grand cultural festival to be held by the foundation from March 11 to 13, 2016 at the Yamuna Floodplains in the National Capital Region. The petitioners claimed that the preparations for carrying the event had already demolished and degraded the ecologically fragile environment of the Yamuna Floodplains, and that allowing the event to take place would be an ecological disaster. As a result, the event must not be allowed to take place, and the organizations should be fined.