AOL to NGT: Take bank guarantee instead of balance money

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New Delhi, April 3 (IANS) The Art of Living (AOL) Foundation is seeking the National Green Tribunal’s permission to submit a bank guarantee rather than paying in cash Rs.4.75 crore as “environmental compensation” for causing damage to the Yamuna floodplain by organising a festival there.

The move by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s AOL has been described by an environmentalist as “yet another attempt to frustrate the efforts to bring it to account for the damage it caused to the Yamuna floodplains” in Delhi.

The next hearing of the case by National Green Tribunal (NGT) is scheduled on Monday. It is based on complaints that AOL violated environmental laws by organising the World Culture Festival on the Yamuna floodplain from March 11 to 13.

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The NGT on March 9 had allowed the festival organisers to go ahead, but imposed on the AOL an “environmental compensation” of Rs.5 crore which had to be paid before the start of the event.

After AOL failed to pay up, the tribunal relaxed that order on March 11 by allowing it to pay Rs.25 lakh immediately — which the foundation did — and the remainder in three weeks’ time.

In a “miscellaneous application” filed on Friday at the NGT, the AOL sought permission to submit a bank guarantee instead of paying Rs.4.75 crore.

The AOL also sought permission to assist the NGT to determine if any damage has happened on the ground as a result of the World Culture Festival.

Environmentalist Manoj Misra, who had first approached NGT against the festival, said the AOL is once again defaulting on its obligation by moving such an application.

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“By yet again defaulting on not making the payment of Rs.4.75 crore within the time limit and seeking its extension (on the very last day on April 1) to submit only a bank guarantee is in contravention of not only the NGT direction dated March 11, 2016 but also its own undertaking given to the NGT in the matter,” said Misra.

It is a brazen attempt to further frustrate the efforts of the NGT to bring AOL to account for what it has done in the Yamuna floodplain, he said.

“That the floodplain at the site has been devastated is for the whole world to see and has been validated by a number of river experts. This fact has already been adjudicated by the NGT and resultantly the AOL and the relevant government agencies have been faulted and fined and disciplined by the NGT,” Misra added.

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