New Delhi: Billed as the world's biggest stage, it is being set up across seven acres on the banks of the Yamuna river in the capital but today the Delhi Development Authority or DDA which owns the land said it was not aware of the scale of the project.
"The Application (by Art of Living) could have been bereft of some technical information. We can still withdraw the permission. We are in the process of ascertaining where things have gone wrong," the lawyer for DDA informed the National Green Tribunal which is currently hearing three cases filed by environmentalists and local farmers against the project coming up along the highly polluted river.
Thousands of artists from across the country and world are expected to descend here next week to take part in the world culture festival being organised by the Art of Living Foundation in India. A host of VIPs including Prime Minister Narendra Modi whose government recently conferred the Padma Vibhushan to the foundation's guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar will be among the chief guests along with President Pranab Mukherjee.
"We are not against the project, but our question is why here?" asked environmentalist Manoj Mishra.
"The project could easily have been held elsewhere instead of illegally levelling acres of land around the site permanently destroying the already fragile area," added Anand Arya, the co-petitioner in the case.
The National Green Tribunal too wants answers. "Was it not incumbent on the DDA to see what was happening on the site and the magnitude of the program?" it asked the agency.
The Art of Living Foundation maintains that the stage is only temporary and it is helping clear up the area. "We should not take into account the area which is outside of the main stage area including roads as land under our control," said Akashama Nath, lawyer for the foundation.
Recently an expert committee appointed by the NGT had said that the festival which is hoping to attract 35 lakh people will cause irreversible damage and the cost for fixing it could be over Rs 100 crore.
The NGT is expected to conclude hearing the case on Monday just days before PM Modi is to inaugurate the festival on the Feb 11.