Sri Sri Ravishankar's Art of Living has termed as "unscientific and illogical" a National Green Tribunal panel's report, which held that AOL's three-day "World Cultural Festival" caused damage to the Yamuna riverbed.
Demanding a fresh probe by an "unbiased" panel, AOL lawyer Kedar Desai and environment expert Prabhakar Rao told a press conference in Noida that "no damage" was caused to the environment due to the event held in March.
"The area was not notified as wetlands but as floodplains only. In the Delhi Wetland Atlas, there is no mention of any wetland at the site where the event was held," said Rao.
"The Committee, in its report, has not quantified the damage. Earlier, it had estimated the damage at Rs 120 crore. Now they are saying... they cannot provide a figure," said Rao.
"How can a panel go against their own estimate? The Committee has submitted two satellite images only. One of the period before the event and the other of the period after it was wrapped up.
"We have requested the NGT to set up an unbiased committee. Our application is yet to be taken up by the tribunal," he said.
"Multiplicity of data is required to assess the exact situation. Even the weeds in the river cleared by the government by spending crores of rupees were claimed to be damaged by the event. We have provided scientific data to prove that no damage was done by the event," Rao said.
"We have faith in the judiciary and hope that the NGT will ensure justice. We will again submit our objections to the report to NGT and seek fresh unbiased committee probe," Desai said.
The tribunal had directed the seven-member expert committee headed by Shashi Shekhar, Secretary of Ministry of Water Resources, and senior scientists and experts from National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, IIT, Delhi and other agencies to inspect the site.
The committee, in its 47-page report, has observed that entire floodplain area used for the main event site i.e. between DND flyover and the Barapulla drain (on the right bank of river Yamuna) "has been completely destroyed, not simply damaged".
"The ground is now totally levelled, compacted and hardened and is totally devoid of water bodies or depressions and almost completely devoid of any vegetation," the expert committee had on Tuesday told the tribunal.
The panel has said that due to the event, the floodplain has lost "almost all its natural vegetation" like trees, shrubs, tall grasses, aquatic vegetation including water hyacinth which provides habitat to large number of animals, insects and mud-dwelling organisms.
IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar at the World Culture Festival, March 11, 2016. Photograph: Kamal Kishore/PTI