Found no vi­o­la­tion by AOL, DDA tells NGT

Tri­bunal pulls up DDA, says they are re­spon­si­ble as well

The Indian Express - - THE CITY - SOWMIYA ASHOK

DAM­AGE TO YA­MUNA FLOOD­PLAINS

THE DELHI Devel­op­ment Au­thor­ity (DDA) on Thurs­day ad­mit­ted be­fore the Na­tional Green Tri­bunal (NGT) that while con­duct­ing a site visit in March this year, they found “no vi­o­la­tions” to the con­di­tions they had put down be­fore the Art of Liv­ing (AOL) while grant­ing per­mis­sion for the World Cul­ture Fes­ti­val last year.

The AOL also re­leased a state­ment high­light­ing DDA’S ad­mis­sion, which said, “The Delhi Devel­op­ment Au­thor­ity to­day ad­mit­ted be­fore the NGT that there was no vi­o­la­tion by Art of Liv­ing. All con­di­tions for the per­mis­sions were ad­hered to.”

The NGT, mean­while, pulled up the DDA for its com­ments on the court-ap­pointed ex­pert com­mit­tee set up to as­sess the dam­age caused to the Ya­muna flood­plains fol­low­ing the three­day fes­ti­val or­gan­ised by Art of Liv­ing (AOL) last year.

DDA coun­sel Ra­jiv Bansal had ear­lier said that the ex­pert com­mit­tee’s fi­nal re­port was “as vague as it can pos­si­bly be” and ques­tioned why the words of the “engi­neer” that the com­mit­tee refers to was taken as “gospel truth”. The court-ap­pointed ex­pert com­mit­tee has said that it would cost over Rs 42 crore to undo the dam­age caused to the Ya­muna flood­plains as a re­sult of the fes­ti­val.

A bench headed by NGT chair­per­son Swatan­ter Ku­mar said, “The DDA should have ex­er­cised proper cau­tion. If they granted per­mis­sion to you (AOL), then they have some re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

The bench, on Thurs­day, took ex­cep­tion to the DDA cousel’s ear­lier sub­mis­sion and asked if the gov­ern­ment body has set up its own ex­pert panel to as­sess the dam­age to the flood­plains.

“You tell us from your engi­neer... please call your chief engi­neer here just now,” the bench said.

In re­ply, when the DDA coun­sel said that he had no ex­per­tise in the mat­ter, the bench said, “It’s not fair. You can­not make sweep­ing com­ments on peo­ple who have de­voted their lives to en­vi­ron­ment. We are warn­ing you peo­ple that if any­body passes stric­tures, we will not hes­i­tate to take ac­tion against them.”

Bansal, how­ever, clar­i­fied that he did not in­tend to cast as­per­sions but was just ques­tion­ing the ba­sis of the find­ings and the tech­nol­ogy used by the ex­pert panel.

Fur­ther, the bench asked DDA on what ba­sis had they granted per­mis­sion to the AOL to hold the fes­ti­val de­spite know­ing that the venue was part of the “ac­tive flood­plains” of the Ya­muna. “What on earth made you give per­mis­sion?” the bench asked.

The Aol’s coun­sel, com­menced the ar­gu­ments on Thurs­day. “I have not breached any con­di­tion nor is there is no al­le­ga­tion that any of the con­di­tions we’ve breached,” he said. “There has been no vi­o­la­tions of any law.”

The mat­ter will be next heard on May 15.

Oi­nam Anand

A court-ap­pointed ex­pert com­mit­tee has said that it would cost over Rs 42 crore to undo the dam­age caused to the Ya­muna flood­plains as a re­sult of the fes­ti­val.

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