yamuna river
Seven men reportedly drowned in the Ganges on Wednesday while trying to save one another after one of them lost his balance trying to click a selfie. DDA Picture: A Hindu devotee takes his selfie while sitting on a boat in the polluted waters of Yamuna river during Chatt Puja in New Delhi, India, Nov.18, 2015. [Representational Image]Reuters

The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) said Thursday it was unaware of the scale of the World Culture Festival, hosted by Sri Sri Ravishankar's Art of Living foundation, when it gave permission to the organisation to use the Yamuna riverbanks. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) was hearing a petition filed by two people about the environmental degradation that the Yamuna floodplains would face due to the festival. 

The festival, scheduled for March 11 to March 13, is expected to host some 35 lakh people and is spread across 1,000 acres. The hearing began March 1 after Manoj Mishra, of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, and Anand Arya filed a petition against the DDA and the Art of Living foundation, asking the court to put a stop to the festival. 

"Was it not incumbent on the DDA to see what was happening on the site and the magnitude of the programme?" ANI quoted the NGT as asking the DDA. The DDA responded that there was no use stopping the festival now that the preparations for it have been done.

The Hindu quoted the DDA saying Wednesday: "There is no violation of any judgement or order while granting permission to the Art of Living mega event World Culture Festival on the banks of the Yamuna from March 11 to March13."

The petitioners had argued that there would be irreparable damage to the floodplains and the ecosystem of the river. The NGT and the ministry of environment and forests reports have found that the vegetation on the Yamuna floodplain were levelled and there was construction debris on the riverbanks, reports Quint

The scientific panel that reviewed the status of the region following the complaints stated that the Art of Living foundation should be fined Rs 100 crore to Rs 120 crore for the damage it has done to the environment, according to the Mail Today. However, the panel did not recommend cancelling the event.