NGT gives Sri Sri green signal to hold festival but with Rs 5 cr fine

National Green Tribunal on Wednesday evening allowed Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living Foundation to hold World Culture Festival on the Yamuna floodplains this weekend. However, the tribunal slapped a fine of Rs 5 crore as compensation to be paid by the foundation before the event.

A petition had been filed saying that the Art Of Living’s three-day World Culture Festival should be cancelled as it will cause lasting damage to the fragile ecosystem of the Yamuna river.

The NGT, too, was upset at the festival as it questioned the role of authorities ranging from the Centre to the Delhi government in clearing the event. The green body said, “Ever seen this kind and scale of construction activity in Delhi, especially on the flood plain?”

Over 1,000 acres on the Yamuna banks have been converted into a makeshift village for the festival that will feature yoga and meditation sessions, peace prayers and cultural performances. A seven-acre stage has been set up for over 35,000 artistes and visitors from 150 countries.

In Parliament, the government faced protests and objections as the opposition questioned why the event was allowed at the cost of the river banks and why official resources like the army had been invested in it.

Defending the event, AOL founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar tweeted: “I appeal to all parties to not politicize the #WCF2016. It is to unite all cultures, nations, religions & ideologies. Let’s come together!”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to open the festival on Friday even as his security has assessed that the site is not safe for him. President Pranab Mukherjee has declined the invitation.