world culture festival
Permission for World Culture Festival could be cancelled if Rs 5 crore fine not paid: NGT Picture: Preparations for spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar`s World Culture Festival underway in New Delhi on March 8, 2016.IANS

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living (AOL) Foundation has exceeded the permission given to it in line with National Green Tribunal (NGT) norms by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) for its World Culture Festival, the NGT said Tuesday during an ongoing hearing. An environmental activist had petitioned the NGT to stop the event as it damaged the fragile ecology of the Yamuna, on whose banks it is slated to be held.

An expert panel responsible for taking cognisance of the damage done to the floodplains said during a hearing before the NGT at least 60 acres of land was damaged due to the event. The panel had earlier suggested a hefty fine of Rs 100 crore be levied for the environmental damage.

Speculation is rife about whether the event will take place as the police and the Fire Department have not given it clearance yet.

The DDA in its reply to the NGT said clearance was given for 24.4 hectares (almost 60 acre) of land for the event. However, reports suggest the event was spread across 1,000 acre land on the banks of the distressed river. A pontoon bridge built by the Army has also come under scanner during the case.

Meanwhile, the self-styled guru has said no harm would be done to the environment and that the DDA has told the court AOL has not violated norms, according to ANI.

"We want Yamuna to be clean. We will not pollute the environment. To the best of my knowledge, we haven't cut a single tree. We will leave it as a beautiful bio-diversity park," the Indian Express quoted him as saying.

President Pranab Mukherjee officially withdrew his attendance from the controversial event while reports surfaced Tuesday Prime Minister Narendra Modi would also not attend it.

The event is scheduled between March 11 and 13. However, there has been no verdict on whether it will be allowed to take place. The court hearing, which is being heard on a day-to-day basis, will continue Wednesday, March 9. 

[1 lakh = 100,000 | 1 crore = 10 million | 100 crore = 1 billion]