Thursday, March 03, 2016

Fate of Yamuna floodplain still hangs in "balance" despite National Green Tribunal rap on Sri Sri event

By Ashok Shrimali*
While the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday reportedly pulled up the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) for granting permission to hold spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's World Culture Festival on the banks of Yamuna, the chief petitioners against the high-profile event Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan has declared, the “fate of the floodplain still hangs in balance.”
Next date of hearing for the high-profile event, which is to see the participation of the Prime Minister and the President, is either Monday (March 7) or Tuesday (March 8) in the event Monday is declared a holiday.
While the DDA told the NGT that it had reason to “stop” the function now, Abhiyan convener Manoj Misra said in a statement that “It was the DDA got totally expose itself on its science and ‘art’ of decision making with regard to the Yamuna flood plains.
“The DDA advocate was hard put to defend its approval dated December 15, 2015 given to Sri Sri’s Art of Living (AOL) event”, it said, adding, “The DDA admitted it had “withdrawn in mid-2015 an ‘approval’ to AOL which, it had earlier claimed had never been given.”
The second time it withdrew its permission was on November 30, 2015 in order to quickly provide a fresh and final permission on December 15, 2015”, Abhiyan said, adding”, DDA counsel had no convincing answer to the bench's query that what had changed from the earlier reasons of rejection.”
“While initially the DDA counsel stated that the DDA had no details of the planned event and the fact that it was going to be so huge in extent. Later it emerged during cross questioning by the bench that AOL had indeed given some area details which included 20 ha of sitting space, 1.5 ha of platform and 2.4 ha of parking space” the Abhiyan said.
“DDA counsel also could not explain as to why in its approval letter it talks only of maintaining a safe distance from the river edge without specifying what that safe distance would mean. Interestingly the same counsel went on to admit that the construction was happening right next to the river and even within the river”, Abhiyan said,
“While admitting that the AOL had exceeded the permission given to it and at one point the DDA stand seemed like the AOL and DDA were opposite parties in the case, soon it became clear that the DDA was only trying to save its own skin in the matter”, Abhiayan said, adding, “The million dollar question remains that since DDA admits that AOL has violated / exceeded its permission then what prevents it from withdrawing the approval under para 6 of its approval letter.”
“Following this, Abhiyan said, there is a question mark on DDA as competent and reliable agency to look after the river flood plain in the city”, Abhiyan said, wondering, “Why should not all such correspondences and the decision making processes always be made public soonest these are taken.”
“How can a private organisation come to gain such a clout that it can bend any agency and any law / rules to meet its ends?”, asks Abhiyan, wondering, “While DDA was at pains to try and defend its approval as not being in the teeth of the NGT orders, the fact remains that it very much is and we in our reply are going to clearly establish how DDA approval is illegal and ab initio void.”
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*Senior activist based in Ahmedabad, secretary-general, mines, minerals and People (mm&P)

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