Fact Check: The Panel That ‘Cleared’ AOL of Yamuna Riverbed Damage

Isn’t it odd that a party to a crime has given themselves a clean chit on the Yamuna floodplains damage?

4 min read
Who is on this panel? Expert or independent environmentalists? Hardly.

Recently, a panel cleared Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s the Art of Living and other concerned authorities of the damage caused to the Yamuna floodplains.

But wait, hold on! Who is in this panel?

Expert or independent environmentalists? No.

In fact, the ‘panel’ consists of officials from organisations such as the Delhi Development Authority and the Delhi government – organisations that were complicit in giving Sri Sri’s AOL permissions for holding the event in the first place, and that have already been penalised by the court.
Fact Check: The Panel That ‘Cleared’ AOL of Yamuna Riverbed Damage

How Can the Complicit Clear Their Own Names?

How can the senior official from the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) clear its own name when it is the party that gave AOL the permission for holding the event?

How can the chief engineer of the Delhi irrigation department, under the Delhi government, clear its own name when it is the one that gave permission for two bridges to be built on the Yamuna floodplains?

Both the Delhi Government and DDA have been penalised by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in a judgement passed on 9 March before the AOL event last year.

The DDA was asked to pay Rs 5 lakh and the Delhi government Rs 1 lakh. DDA has violated a previous judgement of NGT. The area was banned for all events, but the DDA went ahead and gave permission the second time around. It is odd, how someone who is party to a ‘crime’ and has been penalised is giving a clean chit to themselves. What authority do they have?
Vimlendu Jha, Environmentalist and Activist
Fact Check: The Panel That ‘Cleared’ AOL of Yamuna Riverbed Damage

Manoj Mishra, who petitioned against the AOL holding the event, said the organisations were involved only for technical reasons as they are responsible for the administration of the region.

Fact Check: The Panel That ‘Cleared’ AOL of Yamuna Riverbed Damage

This brings us to the second question.

‘Providing Alternative Findings Wasn’t Their Job’

The panel was set up by the NGT a week ago to provide an action plan on the recommendations made by the earlier seven-member expert committee. Not to use this opportunity to give themselves a clean chit.

“This was the second monsoon without any restoration activity on the floodplains, whatsoever. This is blatant abuse of use of court by DDA and the other concerned authorities,” Mishra said.

According to Mishra, the panel didn’t even submit the report during the hearing. “They must have gone out and handed it over to the media”, he said to The Quint.

Manoj Mishra, who filed the petition against the AOL event, has been distressed and confused since the media reported this ‘panel’s’ findings.

Fact Check: The Panel That ‘Cleared’ AOL of Yamuna Riverbed Damage

Loopholes in the Findings?

The panel said there was grass growing and natural regeneration in the region, which wouldn’t be possible with the compacted soil. Reacting to this ‘finding’ is Vimlendu Jha.

We are talking about the peak of monsoons on floodplains. Of course there will be water! Also, more importantly, nature is built in a way that the river is fighting back. That doesn’t mean AOL or these complicit organisations should be let go scot-free. 
Vimlendu Jha, Activist and Environmentalist

Mishra said the NGT will respond to this 'so called report' by the three-member panel on 4 August. “The way these unverified reports are going around, it is misrepresentation. Only once this is judged in court will we know better,” he said.

In between these developments, let there be confusion no more. The recommendations made by the seven-member expert panel appointed by the NGT continues to stand.

In April, earlier this year, the panel said the reconstruction on the damaged floodplains would take Rs 42 crore and at least 10 years to fix. Of this, around Rs 29 crore would be for physical reconstruction and the remaining for biological reconstruction.

The controversy regarding Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and his event began even before the event in March 2016. And, from the looks of it, it won’t end anytime soon.

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