'Don't Question Expert Panel', Green Court Warns On Yamuna Damage

The Green Tribunal warned that it would not hesitate to act against anyone who criticises the expert panel set up to assess the damage to the Yamuna floodplains.

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'Don't Question Expert Panel', Green Court Warns On Yamuna Damage

Green Tribunal's warning comes against the backdrop of repeated criticism of the expert panel's report.

NEW DELHI:  The national capital's lead planning body, the Delhi Development Authority, was rebuked by the National Green Tribunal on Thursday for casting aspersions on the expert group's findings on the damage to the Yamuna floodplains due to last year's three-day Art of Living extravaganza.

The panel, headed by Union water resources secretary Shashi Shekhar, had environmentalists and academics as members.

"It is not fair. You cannot make sweeping comments on people who have devoted their life to environment. We are warning you people that if anybody passes strictures, we will not hesitate to take action against them," a bench of the green tribunal headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar told the planning body today.

The DDA's counsel had questioned the conclusions of the seven-member expert panel that had concluded it would take over 40 crores, and a decade's work, to reverse the damage done by the three-day event organized by Art of Living.

But the planning body isn't the first one to question the expert panel's findings. AOL's Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has consistently rejected conclusions that the World Culture Festival had cost the environment heavily.

"They said we made it (the Yamuna) dirty.  I said, 'Tell me where'. We didn't pollute the water. The water was already so polluted you couldn't go anywhere near it," the spiritual leader said. "They couldn't prove what the damage was. I am sure we will put across the truth and the fact that we know," he told NDTV this week.

The expert panel's finding doesn't look too good on the DDA either, which environmentalists said, had done a sloppy job of protecting the ecologically fragile floodplains.

DDA officials had permitted the cultural event by the Art of Living (AOL) foundation but when asked to justify their decision, had later claimed that they were not aware about the scale of the event. It included a 7-acre stage for 35,000 musicians and dancers, newly built dirt tracks and 650 portable toilets across 1,000 acres.

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