Facing allegations of damage to environment during preparations for its event on Yamuna flood plains, the Art of Living today asserted that it has followed all guidelines and directions of authorities and the National Green Tribunal.
“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,” a statement by AOL Spokesperson said.
“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 spokesperson said.
The Art of Living claimed that in strict adherence to the NGT direction, it has not done any construction or 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,” it said.
It noted that the Art of Living under Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has worked towards restoration of dying rivers in the country including the participation of its volunteers in Meri Dilli Meri Yamuna campaign in 2010.
It claimed that when the site of the festival was identified in December 2015, there was already a massive dumping of construction debris spread over 25 acres of land which was brought to the notice of the DDA.
“Only upon the grant of permission from the authorities/DDA in its letter dated 21st Dec 2015, the Art of Living started the process of removal/clearing of the said debris from December 22nd 2015 till date,” it said.
“We have not blocked any river channel of river Yamuna by throwing any debris into it,” it said.
The National Green Tribunal had on February 19 directed a fresh inspection of the site on Yamuna floodplains after Prof A K Gosain of IIT-Delhi, one of the members of the earlier inspection team, submitted a report saying all existing vegetation has been cleared in the area and if the event was allowed, it would leave a “permanent footprint” on the floodplains of Yamuna.
However, in another report, Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has given a clean chit to the foundation and said no digging work was done at the site.
In his report, Gosain has said the construction and preparations for the event were carried out in violation of the NGT’s directions regarding the Yamuna flood plains.
The AOL today claimed otherwise. “The stage is temporary in nature and every bit of it will be removed after the event is over by the Art of Living. There are no concrete roads that have been made at the venue. Even the ramps made at the venue are only temporary and made of mud involving zero concrete.
“We have not cleared any greenery or levelled the area by dumping any construction debris as alleged. The material used towards construction of the temporary stage is not in any manner embedded in the river bed,” it said.
It said there is no permanent structure or any construction at the site and personally commits to clear all the temporary structures being set up immediately after the event is over, ensuring that the place is left cleaner and more beautified than before.
The programme venue is at a safe distance from the river bank as promised to the authorities and 650 biotoilets are being installed to ensure that none of the waste is passed on to river Yamuna, the AOL spokesperson said.
The temporary pontoon bridges also are being built under proper permission from the authorities. No parking area has been created on the flood plains as alleged. Only a temporary pathway has been created to help people reach the venue, the spokesperson claimed.