NGT slams DDA for casting aspersions on panel's findings on AOL event
The National Green Tribunal today slammed the Delhi Development Authority for casting aspersions on the findings of its expert committee on the damage caused to the Yamuna floodplains due to the 3-day cultural event organised by Art Of Living (AOL).
It also warned that action will be taken against those who would pass strictures on the findings of the expert panel.
The green panel also questioned the DDA for granting nod to AOL, despite three initial rejections and said the civic body should have exercised proper caution while granting approval to the cultural extravaganza.
It said if the permission was granted, "it (DDA) should have fulfilled its responsibility properly."
The lawyer for AOL claimed that none of the terms and conditions imposed by DDA while granting permission for the World Culture Festival, held in March last year, were violated or misused.
He claimed that as a responsible organisation, the AOL had removed all the temporary structures from the site after the conclusion of the event and handed it back to the DDA without any damage.
The tribunal took exception to the submission of the counsel for DDA for questioning the conclusions of the seven-member expert panel.
The bench was expressed anguish over the statement of the DDA counsel that the report has been prepared by the expert members in such a manner that it would ensure their involvement with the issue of the Yamuna floodplains for 10 years.
The bench sharply reacted to the submissions of the DDA counse, saying "it is not fair. You make sweeping statements about the members of the expert panel. You are casting aspersions, tell us how much time your engineers will take to restore the damaged area. Ask your chief engineer."
The lawyer representing the DDA said he himself cannot answer instantly as he lacked the expertise but could reply after taking instruction.
At this, the bench shot back saying "how can you make such a sweeping statement about people who have devoted their life to environment. They have put 60 years of life and this is how you treat people. Anybody can err but you can't make such comments."
The tribunal expressed anguish over the DDA counsel's submission that the expert committee's report was based on findings of an engineer who is claimed to be familiar with earthworks, but his background was unknown.
"We are warning you people that if anybody passes strictures, we will not hesitate to take action against them," the bench said.
The DDA counsel said he did not intend to cast aspersions and was just questioning the basis of the findings and technology used by the experts panel.
"All measurements are approximate. How did he work out the total area? Who is this engineer? What is his rank? What technology has been adopted for arriving at the conclusions? Whatever he said was the gospel truth," the DDA lawyer asked.
Elaborating on the conditions imposed on AOL while granting permission, DDA said it was clearly mentioned that safe and sufficient distance has to be maintained from the edge of the river water and no activity should be carried out in the vicinity of the Yamuna.
He strongly submitted that DDA was not responsible for any damage and if there was any liability.
The lawyer for AOL refuted the allegations that it had wiped out the vegetation on the Yamuna floodplains and contended that all such claims are completely "erroneous and false".
"All relevant statutory authorities had no objection or reservation with regard to the World Culture Festival event on the designated site. In the circumstances, AOL was entitled to proceed on the basis that there was no violation of any applicable law or any decision of any court or tribunal," the foundation said in its written submission before the NGT.
Earlier, an expert committee had told the NGT that a whopping Rs 42.02 crore would be required to restore Yamuna floodplains which was ravaged due to a cultural extravaganza organised by AOL last year.