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Why exempt buildings from green clearance, asks NGT

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Questioning the exemption granted to building and construction projects of a certain size, from seeking environmental clearance, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has issued a notice to the union environment ministry on Wednesday, seeking an explanation.Earlier this month, the ministry finalised a notification that merged green clearances for construction projects spread over 20,000 square metres to 1,50,000 sq m with building approvals.The notification entrusted urban local bodies with ensuring environmental compliances, too.The ministry’s notification was challenged by the Society for Protection of Environment and Biodiversity. During the hearing the three-member principal bench of NGT directed Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to take “clear instructions” on the Environment Impact Assessment notification and reasons for exempting building and construction projects from environmental clearance.The matter will be heard next on January 4, 2017. In the meantime, development and construction projects will be subject to orders of the Tribunal. The petitioners argued that a subordinate piece of legislation was superseding a statute, as it took away powers of Pollution Control Boards and Committees to grant consent to establish and operate construction projects under the Air Act and Water Act.The petition also said that construction projects were included in the ambit of environment ministry as urban local bodies had failed to ensure compliance of environmental norms such as rain water harvesting, solar water harvesting and solid waste management.Thus, the petitioner has prayed for the notification to be set aside as it circumvents provisions of Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006 and Environment Protection Act, 1986.

Uma Bharti’s ministry damns Ministry of Environment and Forests’s Ganga projects

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The differences between the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and the Ministry of Water Resources was revealed in a letter sent by Water Resources Secretary Shashi Shekhar to his environment ministry counterpart.Dated October 13, the letter, which has been accessed by DNA, has Shekhar pointedly questioning his MoEF counterpart on why had his ministry permitted 10 hydro projects and mining to come up in the Bhagirathi valley. These projects, he said, would dilute the Bhagirathi Eco Sensitive Zone, located in the upper reaches of the Ganga. The Bhagirathi eco-sensitive area was notified in 2012 to protect the 100 km Gaumukh to Uttar Kashi stretch of Bhagirathi, spread across 4,179 sq.kms.In his letter, Shekhar said, “Permitting large scale activities like hydro power projects, construction works, mining etc. will severely compromise the environmental concerns and its sensitivity and will have far reaching environmental consequences in the days to come.”Shekhar added that throwing open this eco-sensitive area for hydro power projects would signal, “impending environment disaster in the ecologically sensitive area.”It is not the first time the Ministry of Water Resources have taken up this issue. Sources say that that following Shekhar’s letter, Water and Ganga Minister Uma Bharti, too, spoke to her counterpart Anil Dave and expressed her concern on plans to allow dams in the eco-sensitive area. These sources added that despite repeated reminders to the MoEF but so far nothing has been resolved.Speaking to DNA, Shekhar said, “You cannot shove in anything through the back door, this is a fundamental mistake and it is illegal. They need to realize that this is the last pristine and free-flowing stretch of the Ganga.”The letter comes in the wake of the MoEF’s meeting on the Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone in August. In that meeting, the Uttarakhand state government had sought relaxations in activities allowed in the 4,179 sq km eco sensitive area. The state government argued that since 10 hydropower projects with a cumulative capacity of 82MW were approved before the Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone was notified in 2012, they should be approved for construction.In the minutes of the meeting, it was stated that the “MoEF & CC could consider inserting a transitional clause to permit the 10 HEP’s (hydro power projects) which were approved prior to the date of notification.” Along with plans to permit hydro power projects, the MoEF said that river-bed mining up to 2m depth could be allowed in the eco-sensitive area.The MoEF is defending its decisions on grounds that the projects will be approved only after a carrying capacity study is done by scientists. “The Uttarakhand government presented the Zonal Master Plan, but it has defects and requires a lot of changes. We will look into all aspects before approving hydro power projects in the eco-sensitive area,” said Amita Prasad, additional secretary, MoEF.Meanwhile, the water ministry has panned the Zonal Master Plan. “It is (Zonal Master Plan) is fundamentally wrong because it is not prepared by experts. We have prepared a draft joint affidavit to be submitted in the NGT that has been sent to the environment ministry. We should have experts visit the ESZ,” said Shekhar.Currently, the NGT is hearing an ongoing matter on the issue pertaining to Zonal Master Plan of the Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone.

Drop poop, pay Rs 50,000: NGT tells airlines

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The National Green Tribunal (NGT)’s principal bench has ordered airlines to clean up their act or pay a price. In an order passed on Tuesday in the bizarre case of human waste falling from the skies in Vasant Enclave, South Delhi, the NGT said that airlines will be penalized Rs.50,000 if they are found to be dumping excreta mid-air. The amount collected from penalties should be used for environmental protection, the NGT added.A three-member bench, headed by justice Swatanter Kumar, passed this order while hearing a petition filed by Lt.Gen (Retd) Satwant Singh Dahiya, a resident of Vasant Enclave.In his petition, Dahiya said that excreta had repeatedly fallen from airplanes in and around his house, defacing the compound and walls. The petitioner contended that the dropping of human waste from aircrafts was in violation of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and a threat to health of residents. In his petition, Dahiya had also sought a 24-hour helpline to report incidents of airplanes dropping waste and to monitor such incidents.In its order, NGT has asked the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to issue a circular to all airlines. “DGCA shall also issue directions that aircraft on land shall be subjected to surprise inspection to check if the waste tanks are not empty. Those airlines found to be violating the circular or if with empty tanks should be liable to an environment compensation of Rs 50,000 per default,” the bench said.Earlier, the NGT had asked pollution watchdog Central Pollution Control Board to collect samples of waste from the petitioner’s house to test if it was indeed human excreta. The CPCB tested the samples and said that it human excreta. While issuing directions, the green panel expressed surprise over the CPCB report, saying, “We are surprised to note the stand of CPCB to the extent of coliform and the kind of splashes created on the houses of the petitioner as well as others clearly demonstrate that it was human excreta.”The NGT also slapped a fine of Rs.5,000 on the ministry of civil aviation and environment ministry for not filing inspection report on the petition.

Pay Rs 10,000 fine for throwing waste in public place: NGT

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Municipal solid waste (MSW) is one of the most serious pollutants in the country specially in Delhi, the National Green Tribunal has said while announcing a fine of Rs 10,000 on those found throwing waste at public places.The green panel said that all authorities are under ‘statutory’ obligation to ensure that waste is “collected, transported and disposed” of in accordance with Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 so that it does not cause public health hazards.”All major sources of municipal solid waste generation hotels, restaurants, slaughter houses, vegetable markets etc. should be directed to provide segregated waste and handover the same to the Corporation in accordance with rules. Any such body, person, hotels, residents, slaughter houses, vegetable markets etc. which does not comply with the directions or throw their waste over any drain or public place shall be liable to pay environmental compensation at the rate of Rs 10,000 per default,” a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said.The tribunal noted that the national capital generates 9,600 metric tonnes of municipal solid waste per day and there is no “clear map” ready with the municipal bodies to deal with the huge quantity of waste.It also directed Commissioner of each of the corporations to submit a scheme within a month before the Tribunal for providing incentive to the people who give segregated waste at source, “by way of rebate in property tax and on other hand to impose penalties on residents, societies, RWAs who do not provide segregated waste”.”It should be kept in mind that as per polluter pays principle, each person would be liable to pay for causing pollution, if the waste is generated. It is the duty of a citizen to ensure that said waste is handled properly and not to cause any pollution or cause inconvenience to other persons. The entire burden cannot be shifted on the state and authorities,” the bench said.The directions came while hearing a plea relating to mismanagement of municipal solid waste in Delhi and the terrible conditions that are prevailing near landfill sites.

NGT raps Uttarakhand govt over rehabilitation of villagers facing threat from wild animals

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday questioned the Uttarakhand Government over the issue of relief and rehabilitation of villagers residing inside Rajaji National Park, who are facing threat from wild animals.Today, on the plea of Ex Jila Panchayat Member, for the relief and rehabilitation of thousands of poor villagers residing inside the Raja Tiger Reserve, the NGT issued notice to the Uttarakhand Government and asked them to file a proper response. Madan Singh, an ex zila Panchayat member has stated in his application that about 10 villages which are inside the Rajaji National Park are not only facing threat from dangerous wild animals but have been deprived by the Uttarakhand Govt of basic fundamentals facilities like Water, Electricity etc.The court after hearing the submission made by the counsel of the applicant orally directed the Counsel of the Uttarakhand Government to look into the matter and to file proper reply till next date of hearing.The next hearing in the matter is on 9th February 2017.

Environmentalists raise red flag over proposed landfill project on Yamuna river bed

Environmentalists have raised a red flag over the proposal by the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) to set up a landfill spread over 49.24 acres on the bed of the east bank of River Yamuna in New Delhi – an active and vulnerable flood plain.

In a letter to Delhi Lieutenant Governor (L-G) Najeeb Jung, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, a civil society consortium dedicated to the restoration of river Yamuna as an eco-system, has asked for the former’s intervention to prevent the project from being executed.

East Delhi Municipal Corporation has proposed to set up a landfill spread over 49.24 acres on the bed of the east bank of River Yamuna. PTI

East Delhi Municipal Corporation has proposed to set up a landfill spread over 49.24 acres on the bed of the east bank of River Yamuna. PTI

In the letter – that was also marked to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal – Manoj Misra, the NGO’s convenor, has not only appealed to the government heads to consider the environmental and legal fallout of the proposal but has also taken pot-shots at the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) for being a silent approver and for ‘not applying its mind on the matter.’

The environmentalists only came to know about the matter after EDMC filed an application before the National Green Tribunal (NGT), seeking clearance for the project.

“We came to know about the proposal when it got listed at NGT for clearance. Presuming that the L-G has given approval to this proposal, EDMC has claimed it in black and white. I have written to the L-G seeking his intervention in this matter, as I feel that he has been kept in the dark about various aspects related to the proposed landfill,” Manoj Misra told Firstpost.

Stating that the proposal is not only illegal but environmentally dangerous if implemented, he said, “Setting up a landfill on a river bed is beyond comprehension. Nowhere across the world has such a thing ever happened. It’s like you are creating another Ghazipur or Bhalswa like landfill on the river bed of Yamuna,”

“The proposed site adjoins residential areas of high population density. Lakhs of people will get affected due to this move, as the underlying aquifers and ground water will get contaminated and become highly toxic. The residents of east Delhi, especially Shahdara, Mayur Vihar, etc will be worst hit,” Misra said.

According to environmentalists, the proposed site is an active flood plain, which revives after every flood in the river. The NGT expert committee report has earmarked the site for development of wetlands and water bodies to store flood waters for the city.

“Besides the NGT, the DDA too had planned for the proposed site to be used for a series of wetlands. The site being in the river bed violates all legal provisions in the country under the Water Act 1974, Environment Protection Act 1986, Waste Management Rules 2016, DDA Act, Zonal Plan for Zone O, etc. Despite having full knowledge of these legal requirements, how could the DDA suggest this site is beyond comprehension,” added Misra.

A Google Maps grab of proposed landfill site on the Yamuna Flood Plains.

A Google Maps grab of proposed landfill site on the Yamuna Flood Plains.

Meanwhile, in addition to approaching the NGT, environmental activists have also launched a signature campaign. Swechha, an environmental NGO, has also launched an online campaign against the proposal.

“EDMC’s proposal to develop a 150-acre landfill site along with a waste-to-energy plant on the floodplains of river Yamuna, is the most preposterous and ill-conceived proposal in the history of urban governance in the country. The landfill proposal with a capacity of managing over 3000 metric tons of garbage daily is a dangerous proposition. It’ll sit over a source of drinking water, it’s in the high seismic zone near densely populated area and also next to several archaeological sites,” said Vimlendu Jha, secretary, Swechha.

Besides the landfill site, the EDMC has also proposed a waste-to-energy plant, compost plant, C&D processing plant, Leachate treatment plant, recycling units, etc. The proposed site is in Ghonda Gujran Khadar (floodplain).

In fact, environmental experts strongly advocate a ‘no landfill policy’ and promote decentralized waste management.

“There should be no landfill on Yamuna’s banks. In fact, the entire paradigm of waste disposal management has to be changed. We shouldn’t keep looking for more and more landfill sites; rather decentralized waste management should be promoted and the need of waste disposals in landfills should be minimised. There should be a ‘no-landfill policy’ in place and existing landfills need to be managed well,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, Centre for Science and Environment.

Meanwhile, the Delhi government has ruled out any such proposal for a landfill site on Yamuna floodplains.

“There can’t be a landfill on Yamuna floodplains. It needs to be seen from where such a proposal has come. The Delhi Pollution Control Committee will cancel such a proposal,” a senior Delhi government official told Firstpost.

Letter to L G From Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan by Firstpost on Scribd

First Published On : Dec 10, 2016 16:14 IST

NGT bans disposable plastic in Delhi & NCR from January 1, but allows Okhla plant to operate

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The National Green Tribunal on Friday banned the use of disposable plastic in Delhi and NCR with effect from January 1, 2017 and directed the city government to take steps to reduce dumped waste.A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Swatanter Kumar, however, refused to shut down the Okhla waste-to-energy plant and issued a slew of directions for its eco-friendly operation along with two other plants at Gazipur and Bhalswa.”We direct that the Okhla plant shall continue to operate subject to the order of the tribunal… All the corporations, DDA and other public authorities including NCT of Delhi are directed to take immediate steps for reduction and utilisation of dumped waste,” the bench said.Referring to the three dumping sites in Delhi — Okhla, Gazipur and Bhalswa, the tribunal said, “Each of these sites is a depiction of mess that can be created for environment and health of people of Delhi.”It said, “We direct that use of disposable plastic is prohibited in entire NCT of Delhi. The Delhi government shall take steps for storage and use of plastic materials with effect from January 1, 2017.”The bench also constituted a joint inspection team comprising member secretaries of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), A senior scientist of the Ministry of Environment and Forests along with an IIT Delhi professor, be nominated by the IIT director, directing it to file its report within six weeks and supervise and visit the plants once in two months.The directions came on a plea filed by Sukhdev Vihar Residents Welfare Association praying for closure of waste-to- energy plant alleging that it uses illegal mass burning technology which causes air pollution.The bench, while directing the plants to “strictly follow” the prescribed norms provided in the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act and the Solid Waste Management Rules 2016, said they will be fined Rs five lakh for non-compliance of directions and each pollution incident.It also said that an environment compensation of Rs 10,000 will be imposed on the vegetable vendors and slaughter houses for throwing garbage in public places.It directed the Delhi government to make operational the Shastri Park Waste Disposal Plant in six weeks after DPCC said it required an environmental clearance.The government has also been asked to include a condition in all tenders for construction work that they will use the waste materials released by the plants for road construction.During the last hearing, the tribunal had pulled up the Delhi government saying it was worried about everything except environment and had expressed displeasure that the government and municipal corporations were not unanimous over the total quantum of waste generated in the national capital.”There is mosquito breeding, dengue, different kinds of viral fever and you people are worried about everything except environment. There has to be some sense of responsibility,” the panel had said.Earlier, residents of the city’s Sukhdev Vihar area had told the tribunal that the Okhla waste-to-energy plant in South Delhi should be immediately shut down as it violated Delhi Master Plan 2021.The tribunal had rapped South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) over “inaccurate” data on various kinds of waste generated in the national capital daily.In its application, the association had also told the NGT that as per observations of the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, mass burning technology should be stopped immediately.

Why can’t you but new vehicles: NGT refuses to lift diesel ban in Haryana

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The National Green Tribunal on Tuesday refused to permit over 10-year old diesel vehicles from plying in Karnal in Haryana and asked the state government to expedite installation of CNG stations. A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar passed the order on the plea of Karnal Independent Schools Association seeking permission to ply diesel vehicles over 10 years old until adequate number of CNG filling stations are set up in their city that falls in the NCR.”Why can’t you buy new vehicles? Karnal is almost Delhi and it is as thickly populated as any colony here. You run international schools, charge handsomely, why can’t you buy new vehicles. We are not going to permit diesel vehicles in Karnal, you can be rest assured,” the bench said.When the NGT asked the lawyer appearing for association to file an affidavit stating that it was ready to fit new engines in the old buses, he withdrew his petition. In its plea, the association had said that it runs around 900 buses in 77 schools which were all private and unaided CBSE schools in Karnal.”The member schools do not have substantial means and resources to immediately procure approximately 175 new diesel buses. The schools cannot purchase new CNG fitted buses as well due to lack of adequate resources and as well as due to non-availability of CNG filling stations in the area. “Many of the children who attend these schools come from far flung, rural and remote areas as well and have no means of transport besides school buses. Many of these children belong to under privileged backgrounds as well,” the plea had said.The tribunal had earlier asked Uttar Pradesh and Haryana governments to mull over the possibility of installing CNG stations in NCR and consider the proposal after it was informed that there was no CNG station in Karnal and Meerut. On July 18, the green panel had directed authorities in Delhi-NCR to cancel the registration of all diesel-powered vehicles which were over 10 years old.

Tanneries in Unnao violating pollution norms, UP tells green tribunal

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Industrial effluents, containing high concentration of chromium, from tanneries in Unnao is polluting the Ganga, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) informed the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday. The NGT’s principal bench is currently hearing the case regarding industrial pollution in the Ganga on a daily basis.The five-member bench, headed by justice Swatanter Kumar, was examining the deficiencies in the functioning of effluent treatment plants, especially those in tannery clusters. The counsel for UPPCB informed the bench that there are 400 tanneries in Kanpur that discharged their effluents into the Jajmau drain, one of the most polluted drains along the Ganga. When the bench asked the counsel for tanning industries about the functioning of the Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP), he replied that it is largely functioning well.However, UPPCB informed the bench that a joint inspection of the CETP done with the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, had revealed that the effluents discharged contained pollutants above permissible limits. “Learned counsel for UPPCB said that special committee that included IIT-Kanpur and CPCB analyzed trade effluents from CETP’s (in Unnao). They violated BOD, COD, total chromium and TDS norms. Both CETP’s are not performing to desirable levels, and are a major source of passing pollutants into drains,” the bench said.BOD (biochemical oxygen demand) levels indicated the health of water. Lower levels are indications of a healthy water body while higher levels indicate that the water body is polluted.

Heavy metals, pesticides in Ganga, CPCB tells National Green Tribunal

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday asked the Centre to give a note detailing the state of river Ganga in the past and how it has deteriorated now. The tribunal’s directions came after the Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) submissions that the water of the holy river, between Haridwar and Kanpur, contains heavy metals and pesticides.The NGT’s four-member principal bench, headed by justice Swatanter Kumar, was hearing the Ganga pollution matter filed by MC Mehta. Justice Kumar said, “Today, its (river Ganga) water at Haridwar is full of pollution. There was a time when people used to drink Ganagajal and store it in their house for years. Faith in Ganga was not a myth it was a tested fact, we are talking of a river which is respected by millions across the nation.”The bench said that the note should contain scientific information on ‘what Ganga was’ and ‘what Ganga is’ with regards to quality of the river, its aquatic life, pollution levels, drains, coliform levels and also religious sentiments attached with the river. A total of 14 heavy metals including arsenic, cadmium, lead, nickel, chromium, cobalt and selenium were found in Ganga water on Haridwar-Kanpur stretch.The tribunal also asked the tannery industries of Kanpur to submit their stand on using recycled water and whether they can shift to another place. “Are you prepared to accept recycled water from CETP (Common Effluent Treatment Plant). You will have to pay for that water; drinking water and borewell cannot be used. Also, what is your view on shifting? What will be your contribution to the CETP, both capital and maintenance wise?,” said justice Kumar. Jajmau is the tannery hub in Kanpur and as per a CPCB report, the fecal coliform is ten times higher than prescribed standards. Of the 764 grossly polluting industries on the Haridwar-Kanpur stretch, 415 are from the tannery sector.ACCORDING TO CPCBWater sample test said that 33 drains release effluents into Ganga on the Haridwar-Kanpur stretch, of which 21 carry domestic sewage and 12 carry industrial and domestic sewage. At Chhoiya drain, water samples tested by CPCB contained arsenic, DDT, chromium and other pesticides. A total of 14 heavy metals including arsenic, cadmium, lead, nickel, chromium, cobalt and selenium were found in Ganga water on Haridwar-Kanpur stretch.

NGT questions LG for lifting construction ban

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In wake of Lt.Governor Najeeb Jung’s order to lift the ban on construction and demolition activity imposed by the Aam Aadmi Party-led Delhi government and National Green Tribunal (NGT), the Tribunal on Wednesday questioned the decision and said pollution levels are still high. The principal bench of the Tribunal said that pollution levels continue to be unsafe and particulate matter (PM) is also above safe limit. Besides lifting prohibition on construction activity, Jung had also ordered that trucks coming from other states will be allowed to enter Delhi after midnight till January 31 next year. However, firecrackers and diesel generating sets are still banned.While questioning the LG’s orders, the NGT bench said, “Why have you lifted the ban on construction activity in Delhi. How do you say it is safe outside. The levels of PM10 and 2.5 is still five times high? Last Thursday, NGT had passed a significant order, putting in place a mechanism to be implemented when air quality plunges to emergency levels when PM10 and PM 2.5 pollution crosses the ‘severe’ level of 431 and 251 respectively. Stopping construction and demolition activity and prohibiting transportation of construction material was one of the major measures to be followed, as per NGT orders.”The Tribunal’s order is applicable to Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.In response to NGT’s questions, the Delhi government counsel informed the bench that the decision was reviewed after it was found that PM10 levels dipped by a third and a one-fourth fall in PM 2.5 levels. The counsel also said that the ban on construction was lifted as daily wage labourers were facing hardships.

Delhi pollution: Capital punishment for citizens; being robbed off 3 years of their life, says High Court

New Delhi: The alarming pollution level is literally ‘capital punishment’ for Delhi’ites who are being robbed of three years of their lives due to it, Delhi High Court said on Thursday, holding government’s inaction and stubble burning in Punjab as being responsible for the “genocide”.

“It is killing us,” a bench of justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Ashutosh Kumar said, adding that the grave situation was leading to the “decimation” of more than 60 million life years or one million deaths.

It also asked whether votes were more important than the lives of those who vote. “It is literally capital punishment as the capital is being punished and that too for no offence. People are being killed in the capital. You cannot kill Delhi,” the high court said, terming reduction in life expectancy due to pollution and government inaction over it as “genocide” and “murder”.

Referring to a WHO study on the effects of air pollution published in a news article, the court said pollutants in the air in several cities of India, especially Delhi, “exceeds the standards”, as 13 out of the world’s 20 most polluted cities were in our country.

The bench also noted that Delhi had the highest number of people suffering from respiratory ailments and also deaths due to it. It said the government was duty bound to remove the threat of air pollution, but “despite repeated direction” and public opinion, the “governments responsible have not acted in the manner they should have”.

Children protest against alarmingly rising pollution in Delhi. AFP

Children protest against alarmingly rising pollution in Delhi. AFP

“As per the report, air pollution in a city like Delhi deducts three years from your life expectancy. Delhi has a population of over 20 million. So 60 million life years are being robbed from people of Delhi. With an average life expectancy of 60 years, it would mean that air pollution as its exists in Delhi takes one million lives. If this is not murder, what is? This is genocide. Government inaction is the culprit for shortening of life,” the court said.

Referring to satellite images submitted by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) in connection with stubble burning in northern India, the court said level of pollutants in the air peaked first week of November and biomass burning in Punjab was the “main culprit”.

“Unfortunately, state of Punjab is in denial mode and contests allegations that they are responsible for air pollution in Delhi. Punjab has not taken action as have the states of Haryana and Rajasthan, despite our clear warning earlier,” the court said.

The court said before issuing contempt notice to Chief Secretary of Punjab, “we want an affidavit from him indicating why our directions were not carried out and what prevented him from doing so”. It gave the counsel for Punjab time till November 18, the next date of hearing, to place the affidavit before the court.

The bench made it clear that if it was not satisfied with the affidavit, it will issue contempt notice to the Chief Secretary. It noted the submission of the counsel for Punjab that it would take “emergency measures” to put an end to stubble burning and expressed hope the steps would be implemented.

On the issue of “bursting” landfill sites and the “fires simmering” there which aggravate air pollution, the court said the only solution was to segregate the garbage and use it for generation of power.

In order to achieve this objective, the court directed the municipal authorities to put in place trash receptacles for segregation of bio-degradable and non-degradable waste.

The court said worldwide, landfills were not encouraged and emphasis was on waste recycling and an alternative was to set up waste to energy plants.

It noted the Delhi government’s proposal to convert the closed-down thermal power plant at Rajghat into a waste to energy plant (WTEP) and said the project, which is estimated to take 18 months from start to finish, should be started at the earliest.

The directions came on a PIL initiated by the court on the issue of air pollution in the city. Last month, while hearing the air pollution matter, the high court had asked the states of UP, Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana to stop stubble burning for which the national capital every year grappled with the menace of haze. This was even after orders of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to stop the practice of burning of crop and agriculture residue.

During the hearing today, the court said bad air quality killed people and caused respiratory ailments, which in turn led to reduction in working population and loss of productivity.

“In pure economic terms, look at the cost-benefit you would have if this issue of air pollution is addressed,” the bench said.

Coming down heavily on Punjab, the court asked its counsel how it would make good the huge national economic loss that would have been caused due to closure of schools in Delhi and people falling sick and not being able to work.

“You have failed as a state,” the bench remarked while referring to Punjab waiving off agricultural loans of over Rs 80000 crore, but being unable to arrange Rs 9900 crore for procuring “rota and re-seeding machines” to reduce biomass generated after harvesting.

The counsel for Punjab, while defending the state, said the government may have been slow to start but it has taken steps like setting up biomass power plants.

He said the state required around Rs 9900 crore for the machines and has written to the Centre. Rejecting the contentions, the bench said it had warned all the states well in advance on these issues. “But you (Punjab) did nothing. There is dereliction of duty” the court said and added “put a stop to it immediately”.

It also said that despite the advance warning, “damage has been done”. Earlier, the high court had noted that stubble burning, which is not permissible under the law, was going on despite the orders of NGT and High Court.

Delhi pollution: HC claims govt inaction, ‘stubble burning’ responsible for reducing life expectancy

New Delhi: Government inaction and stubble burning in Punjab are the real culprits in robbing 20 million Delhi’ites of three years of their life expectancy, which amounts to “genocide” and “murder”, Delhi High Court said on Thursday.

“It is killing us,” a bench of justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Ashutosh Kumar said, adding that the grave situation was leading to the “decimation” of more than 60 million life years or one million deaths.

It also asked whether votes were more important than the lives of those who vote.

The bench made the serious observation while referring to a recent environment study published in a weekly.

“As per the report, air pollution in a city like Delhi deducts three years from your life expectancy. Delhi has a population of over 20 million. So 60 million life years are being decimated and killed. It is akin to one million deaths. If this is not murder, what is? This is genocide.

“Government inaction is the culprit for shortening of life. Look at the enormity of the matter. Something drastic needs to be done. Is vote bank more important or the man or woman behind the vote,” it said, adding “Punjab (stubble burning) is killing us”.

The court said as per various reports, Delhi has been termed as the worst city in India in terms of air quality.

Bad air quality not only kills people, but also leads to respiratory ailments, the court said and added that these led to reduction in working population and loss of productivity.

“In pure economic terms, look at the cost-benefit you would have if this issue of air pollution is addressed,” the bench said while hearing a PIL initiated by the court on the issue of air pollution in the city.

Last month, while hearing the air pollution matter, the high court had asked the states of UP, Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana to prevent stubble burning for which the national capital every year grappled with the menace of haze even after orders of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to stop the practice of burning of crop and agriculture residue.

Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), meanwhile, showed the court satellite images from NASA showing the extent of biomass or crop burning in northern India.

Referring to the images, the bench and amicus curiae Kailash Vasdev said the main culprit was Punjab where majority of fires were happening.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Vasdev said that while Haryana and Rajasthan have taken steps like training farmers, employing new tools for cutting crops, recycling the biomass and using it for power generation, Punjab was only asking for money.

He also said that as per Punjab’s affidavit, it was bringing in political issues and angles as well as citing economic constraints in preventing biomass burning.

Agreeing with the amicus, the bench also said the state appeared to be “in denial” even though the extent of biomass burning was “much, much more” there than in other states, with resultant smoke reaching as far as Madhya Pradesh.

The bench then asked the counsel for Punjab how it would apologise to the people who have died and those who continue to suffer respiratory diseases due to air pollution caused by biomass burning.

The court also asked how the state would make good the huge national economic loss that would have been caused due to closure of schools in Delhi and people falling sick and not being able to work.

“You have failed as a state,” the bench remarked while referring to Punjab waiving off agricultural loans of over Rs 80000 crore, but being unable to arrange Rs 9900 crore for procuring “rota and re-seeding machines” to reduce biomass generated after harvesting.

The counsel for Punjab, while defending the state, said the government may have been slow to start but it has taken steps like setting up biomass power plants.

He said the state required around Rs 9900 crore for the machines and has written to the Centre.

Rejecting the contentions, the bench said it had warned all the states well in advance on these issues.

“But you (Punjab) did nothing. There is dereliction of duty. Does your Chief Secretary intend to continue in that position? We are contemplating issuing contempt notice to him. You can reply to that,” the court said and added “put a stop to it immediately”.

It also said that despite the advance warning, “damage has been done” and the actions of Punjab was akin to “capital punishment” for the people of Delhi.

“Literally capital punishment as the capital is punished and that too for no offence. People are being killed in the capital,” the bench said.

Earlier, the high court had noted that stubble burning, which is not permissible under the law, was going on despite the orders of NGT and HC. “This practice has gone unabated year after year and Delhi has been engulfed in haze, constituents of which are aerosols from stubble burning and dust”.

It had said that effects of pollution were felt by every citizen, particularly the elderly and children who experienced difficulty in breathing, and it manifested itself in long term effect like “reduction in longevity”.

Expressing hope that the law and court orders would be followed in letter and spirit, the bench had directed the four states to file status reports regarding action taken by them to ensure stubble burning practice is eliminated.

The court was hearing a PIL initiated by it on the issue of air pollution in the national capital and had asked the governments of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab about their action plan to stop the practice of stubble burning, undertaken by farmers to clear the fields before sowing the next crop after Diwali.

Punjab government, represented by advocate Naginder Benipal, had said immediate action was required by Haryana as it was much closer to Delhi. Haryana government had said it has already started taking action in compliance with the orders of NGT.

Rajasthan government said its Chief Secretary has held meetings on how to deal with the issue and said the pollution control board of the state should also be made a party.

DPCC, represented by advocate Sanjeev Ralli, had said that directions were given by NGT to these states last year itself to stop stubble burning, so let them also show what they have done so far.

The bench, thereafter, had said that any action taken by the states can be seen from the air quality data collected by the 20 monitoring stations in Delhi run by DPCC, Central Pollution Control Board and Ministry of Earth Sciences.

It had directed all the three agencies “to ensure that data is recorded for entire month of October and November 2016 and a comparative chart be placed before us comparing current year data with previous year and also comparing with August and September months of 2016”.

What were you doing when Delhi was a mess post Diwali? NGT asks state govts

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The National Green Tribunal pulled up Delhi-NCR states, Punjab and Rajasthan and questioned how they have implemented their orders on vehicular pollution, waste burning, crop burning and dust pollution. The Tribunal was hearing a clutch of matters on air pollution. “How many of you have read our orders fully and then implemented them?” NGT chairperson justice Swatanter Kumar asked counsels and top officials of Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, who were all present.All of them replied in negative. The bench then asked them to read all the judgements, analyse them and say what steps they will take to implement them. Coming down heavily on all states for the severe air quality in Delhi, justice Kumar said, “When all this mess was going on, when PM 2.5 pollution went up above 1000, what steps did you take except doing meetings? Why could you not deploy helicopters to sprinkle water? It is shocking that you did not do anything for the first five days.”Proceeding to question Punjab and Haryana for burning paddy straw, the bench said, “Tell us one instance where you put out farm fires or provided machines for managing crop stubble.”Last December, NGT had passed orders against agricultural fires. It had asked states to help marginal farmers with managing paddy straw and fine farmers for lighting field fires on the basis of land holdings. The NGT is going to continue the hearing in a while.

Delhi pollution: Old diesel vehicles to be de-registered, crackers banned except religious festivals

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Delhi government on Monday started a process of deregistering 15-year-old diesel vehicles in the city and also imposed a ban on use of fire crackers except for religious functions, following directions from Lt Governor Najeeb Jung to bring down air pollution.Jung today chaired a high-level meeting attended by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, his deputy Manish Sisodia, Environment Minister Imran Hussain and representatives from other agencies. A senior official at the LG office said decisions taken today will be reviewed in the next meeting on November 15. Apart from that, ban on construction and demolition activities will continue till November 14 and overloaded trucks and such non-destined will not allowed in the national capital.The LG has also issued strict action against polluting industries running in Delhi particularly in non-conforming areas and directed MCD and Delhi Police to jointly launch operations to shut down all such industries. Due to deregistration of 15-year-old diesel vehicles, about 2 lakh such vehicles will go off the capital’s roads. The move comes a day after Kejriwal announced closure of all schools till Wednesday, ban on construction and demolition activities for next five days and temporary closure of Badarpur Power Plant.In its July order, National Green Tribunal (NGT) had directed Delhi government to de-register diesel vehicles older than 10 years. Later, the NGT had directed the city administration to deregister 15 years old diesel vehicles in first phase. Today’s meeting was intended to discuss the serious condition of air pollution in city and directed all agencies concerned to ensure immediate measures required to mitigate air pollution in Delhi are strictly implemented. “Deregistration of 15-year-old diesel vehicles started from today. Directions have been issued to all registering authorities/MLOs to start deregistration of diesel vehicles which are more than 15 years old in a phased manner.”This will bring about a reduction of 2 lakh diesel vehicles on the roads in Delhi,” LG office said in a statement. Ban has also been imposed on fire crackers in the national capital in marriages and other events, except for religious functions. “Strict enforcement of ban on construction/demolition activities will be in place from November 7 to 14. Municipal authorities and Delhi Police will ensure its strict implementation and prosecute violators,” the statement said.Jung said that all authorities concerned must come together on a war footing while assigning responsibilities to various agencies for strict implementation of decisions.MCD has been asked to take all measures to control fire in landfill sites, particularly Bhalaswa. They will be doing so by using PWD construction and demolition malba and sludge generated by water treatment plants of DJB.Delhi Transport Department and police have been directed not to allow entry of overloaded trucks and non-destined trucks in the city entering from Rajasthan, UP, Haryana etc with immediate effect.

NGT asks Centre, state Pollution Control Committee to take steps to control pollution

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Taking cognizance of the alarming air quality in Delhi, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Friday asked the Central Pollution Control Board and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee to take steps to control and curb the pollution.The Tribunal also summoned the Environment Secretary of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Rajasthan over pollution increase in the region and asked Environment Secretaries of all the four states to submit a report on burning of agricultural residues and pollution control to the tribunal by November 8. Taking suo motu cognizance of the matter, the tribunal had yesterday directed Delhi Chief Secretary KK Sharma to hold a meeting urgently with all the concerned authorities. The NGT’s directive came while hearing a case related to the rising menace of Chikungunya and Dengue.During the hearing the Delhi government and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) had argued that the presence of mosquitoes declined drastically after Diwali. “Have you done anything to prevent children from going to school, did you give advisory to public. The people have the right to breathe fresh air,” the tribunal observed while reprimanding the Delhi Government over its lacklustre response towards tackling air pollution.As per System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), levels of Particulate Matter (PM) 10 levels reached a record 500 mark on Wednesday. The city witnessed low visibility and smog throughout Wednesday evening and night. The reasons for this are a drop in wind speed and rise in humidity in the atmosphere. Such severe pollution levels can cause breathing problems, lung and heart diseases among many other ailments. Next date for hearing is scheduled on November 8.

NGT to seek report on Delhi air pollution

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Friday will hear a case related to the deteriorating quality of air in Delhi which has been designated as being in the ‘severe’ category post Diwali. Taking suo motu cognisance of the matter, the tribunal on Thursday directed Delhi Chief Secretary KK Sharma to hold a meeting urgently with all the concerned authorities. The chief secretary was told to file a status report by today. NGT’s directive came while hearing a case related to the rising menace of Chikungunya and Dengue. During the hearing the Delhi government and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) had argued that the presence of mosquitoes declined drastically after Diwali. “Have you done anything to prevent children from going to school, did you give advisory to public. The people have the right to breathe fresh air,” the tribunal observed while reprimanding the Delhi Government over its lacklustre response towards tackling air pollution.For the past three days, Delhiites have been inhaling copious amounts of particulate matter (PM) – both 2.5 micrometers and 10 micrometers – composed of dust, dirt, smoke, chemicals, etc., a deadly combination which enters the blood stream through one’s lungs and causes cancer.As per System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), levels of Particulate Matter (PM) 10 levels reached a record 500 mark on Wednesday.The city witnessed low visibility and smog throughout Wednesday evening and night. The reasons for this are a drop in wind speed and rise in humidity in the atmosphere. Such severe pollution levels can cause breathing problems, lung and heart diseases among many other ailments.ANI

Bengaluru steel flyover: NGT stay has bought us time to gear up for legal battle, say petitioners

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Friday restrained the Bengaluru Development Authority (BDA) from proceeding with the steel flyover project for four weeks because it had not got any environmental clearance. This has bought the campaigners and petitioners time to re-group and get their papers to gear up for the next legal and political phase of the battle.

The petition against the steel flyover was filed by the Citizens Action Forum (CAF), a decade-old non-profit civil society organisation, which has been bringing into notice several civic issues faced by Bengaluru.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The petition raised the point that the project has been implemented without obtaining environmental clearance under the EIA Notification, 2006; the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981. Furthermore, the project did not consult public which is mandatory. The state authorities, too, failed to address the concerns raised by the urban planning experts and concerned citizens.

The citizens’ campaign against the Rs 1,791-crore steel project gathered support from several citizens’ organisations, including CAF. Considered to be the longest flyover at a 6.72 km stretch, it was expected to be completed in 24 months. The project was given to Larsen and Toubro Ltd (L&T) and Nagarjuna Ltd, with the BDA overseeing it. The BDA was to acquire around one acre for the project. The steel flyover would have involved the destruction of three flyovers, two skywalks and one magic box underpass and the chopping of 812 trees, intrinsic to the spirit of Bengaluru. The Karnataka government had given a go ahead for the project and the BDA had even issued a letter of acceptance to L&T on Wednesday, as they felt that highway projects did not need any environmental clearance.

Firstpost reached out to the founder president of CAF, NS Mukunda to gather further details on their petition and the NGT stay.

FP: What has the NGT stay benefited you?

Mukunda: We filed the petition a couple of days ago and our lawyers informed us that we had got a stay for one month. Now, we can sit across the table with the government and ask it to reconsider the project, talk technicalities and functionalities of the project and discuss alternate proposals. I don’t have the details yet, the NGT order will probably come after the Diwali holidays.

FP: Why do you think the government was so adamant to go ahead with the project despite so much opposition from the citizens?

Mukunda: It’s purely a political issue, it had become the Congress vs the others.

FP: Also, how did the BDA go ahead with the project without environmental clearance?

Mukunda: The BDA felt that highway projects don’t need environmental clearance, but now that NGT has ordered a stay they cannot wiggle out of this. They must acquire environmental clearance.

FP: What does this mean for the steel flyover “beda” campaign now? Where do you go from here?

Mukunda: It only strengthens our case. As far as the legal battle is concerned, we now have time to collect more documents and papers that have been written by Indian Institute of Science Bangalore and other bodies on traffic-related issues to support our case. The stay has also bought us time to work on the political front. Plus, we need to address the issues that the “Beku” group is raising with concrete ideas on why the steel flyover is a flop. They have genuine concerns – we need to create more awareness among them about the alternate solutions to their immediate traffic congestion issues.

We have to also form core groups to tackle the legal, technical and political fronts.

FP: Will you be reducing the public mobilisation campaign now?

Mukunda: No, we have already begun setting up social media groups with key volunteers in every area to channelise the ground-level support we got for this campaign. We need the participation of citizens in all major and key issues concerning the city in the future too.

FP: So, what are your alternative proposals to the steel flyover?

Mukunda: The steel flyover is not a long-term solution. Even after a year, we will be facing the same traffic congestion. Erecting the flyover would have only been a short-term solution at an astronomical cost of Rs 2,000 crores. There are enough studies to show that airport passenger traffic will cross 35 million in 10 to 12 years, from the 17 million today. This means that about 6.5 lakhs vehicles will be passing through the Kempegowda International Airport route on a daily basis. The steel flyover wouldn’t work in this situation.

One of the cost-effective and long-term alternative solutions can be to develop two alternate roads and revive the commuter rail links to the airport. Right now, 40 percent of the air traveller traffic comes from Krishnarajpuram, Whitefield and Hosekote. Another 30 percent comes from Electronic City and Athibele and the rest comes from Central Business District (CBD) and other areas in Bengaluru. All these converge on the Hebbal flyover, creating traffic congestion.

Part A of the alternate proposal is to segregate this traffic. Strengthening the existing alternate roads through road widening and improvements so that all commuters don’t have to use the Hebbal flyover. CBD and other areas can continue to use the Hebbal flyover, but travellers from the other two regions can use these two alternate roads.

Part B is to develop the commuter rail links. One circuit can run from Whitefield to Devanahalli KIA and another from E-city to Devanahalli. The rail link will ease 25 percent of the traffic. Unfortunately, unlike other countries, Indian air travellers prefer private vehicles over the rail link to reach the airport. That’s why the proposal allocates only 25 percent traffic to the rail link. But the other 75 percent traffic can be taken care of by the three roads.

Of course, all this will take two years, but the steel flyover would also have taken two years. Here we have a long-term solution which will cost only Rs 2,500 crores. It will have no environmental pollution and will not disrupt regular airport traffic as the steel flyover project would have done.

FP: What are the other issues undertaken by CAF?

Mukunda: We get involved with most problems concerning Bengaluru, be it water, traffic, building violations and garbage. Our motive is to get citizens involved in decisions that affect our day to day life in the city.

In 2008, we won the property tax petition where the government wanted to impose tax on capital value of a property, we got it done on the annual rental value of a building instead. This was our major victory.

We have also taken up the issue of Cauvery water supply to Bengaluru. We have research on our side to prove that we have enough water to cater to Bengaluru’s drinking water needs and we don’t need Cauvery water. We need to interconnect Arkavathy to all the lakes; revive 217 lakes in Bengaluru; and make all the catchment areas in these lakes work. We have enough rainwater, but most of it goes into stormwater drains and gets mixed with sewage. It is estimated, that every person needs 135 litres of water, but 65 litres of this precious Cauvery water that has been pumped up to Bengaluru gets flushed down the toilets. Through a four-pronged program, we can create enough water for the city and if we do this, Cauvery water can be used as a buffer.

Our fourth area of work is traffic issues and the steel flyover comes under this.

Writ Petition Steel Flyover by Firstpost on Scribd

Bengaluru steel flyover: NGT grants stay on project work for four weeks

Chennai: The southern bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Friday restrained the Bengaluru
Development Authority (BDA) from proceeding with the steel flyover project for four weeks.

Granting an interim stay on the flyover proposal that kicked up controversies, the NGT directed the BDA not to carry on with the project work for four weeks and posted the matter to 25 November for further hearing.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The tribunal granted interim stay on petitions from Neelaiah, Citizen Action Forum and others. The petitions opposed the project on environmental grounds.

The Rs 1,761 crore project of the BDA is to construct a 6.72 km long, six-lane steel flyover between Basaveshwara Circle and Hebbal to decongest traffic. However, the project faced opposition as it allegedly involved felling of over 800 trees. Farmers too had opposed the project. Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium too had reportedly said that ramps may block the view of the sky.

As protests mounted against the project, Bengaluru Development Minister KJ George had last week dismissed it as a “political gimmick” and it had taken the decision after consultations with experts and “due diligence”.

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had defended the proposed construction of steel flyover calling it “totally transparent” and claimed the project was proposed in 2010 and announced in 2014-15 budget.

NGT forms panel to check sewage joining Ganga through drains

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Ganga rejuvenation project, which is of national importance, is being carried out by officials “who do not know” how many drains are polluting the river, the National Green Tribunal lamented on Wednesday. While setting up a panel to collect information on the quantum and quality of waste being released into the river, the NGT said “a project of national importance is being carried out and all authorities including Centre and state government do not know how many drains are polluting Ganga.” Taking the authorities to task, a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said “you publish books and books, but you know nothing. We are asking you about only 1/5 part of river which is more than 2500 km in length. Still, you don’t have complete information.”The observation came after the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) told the NGT that there were 30 main drains which joined Ganga or its main tributaries like East Kali, Kosi and Ramganga falling in the segment from Haridwar and Unnao.However, Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board claimed there were 172 drains, of which 150 directly joined Ganga and its tributaries. According to UP Jal Nigam, there were 172 drains out of which 83 terminated in the Ganga. “We are very disappointed to note that during the hearing of the case, none of the parties could inform the Tribunal as to how many drains join river Ganga. “We are primarily concerned with segment B of Phase-I but as domestic and industrial waste are inseparable and cannot be quantified, we have to deal with the issue of pollution of Ganga collectively. The Tribunal cannot come to a definite conclusion until the quantum and quality of sewage is brought to the notice by the authorities.”Furthermore, providing of data for control of pollution would depend on the number of drains which join Ganga. The uncertainty created reflects upon functioning of the authorities which have a statutory duty to maintain records.Moreover, the officers present in the court are also unable to assist the Tribunal in this regard. “In these circumstances, we direct Member Secretary of CPCB, chief engineer of UP Jal Nigam, senior environmental officer from UPPCB and a representative from National Mission for Clean Ganga shall personally visit segment B of Phase-I of river Ganga,” the bench, which also included Justice UD Salvi, said. The tribunal directed the panel to identify how many drains joined river Ganga and also record quantity and quality of effluents generated in the river.It asked Ministry of Environment and Forests, CPCB, state pollution control board and UP Jal Nigam to clarify their stand on zero liquid discharge (water treatment process), online monitoring of effluents and discharge of waste in drains by industries releasing contaminants in Ganga. The hearing will continue on Thursday.The NGT is hearing final arguments by various authorities on the mechanism to clean the Ganga from Haridwar to Unnao. Earlier, the Tribunal had rapped Uttar Pradesh government for wasting crores of rupees of public money on Ganga rejuvenation and restrained it from spending on any major project except maintenance work on the stretch from Haridwar to Kanpur.UP government had told the NGT that as per estimates, at present 1382.36 million litre per day sewage is generated and only 300 million litre per day get treated in treatment plants. The green panel had divided the work of cleaning the river into different segments — Gomukh to Haridwar, Haridwar to Kanpur, Kanpur to border of Uttar Pradesh, border of Uttar Pradesh to border of Jharkhand and border of Jharkhand to Bay of Bengal.On December 11 last year, the tribunal had imposed a complete ban on use of plastic of any kind from Gomukh to Haridwar along the river from February 1 and decided to slap a penalty of Rs 5,000 per day on erring hotels, dharamsalas and ashrams spewing waste into the river.

Odd-even in Delhi had no impact, says Central Pollution Control Board

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The National Green Tribunal on Tuesday directed Delhi government to convene a meeting of concerned authorities to come up with a solution to tackle the worsening air quality in the national capital, after being told that the odd-even scheme has not helped in curbing pollution.The direction to hold such a meeting soon was given by a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar to the Delhi Chief Secretary, Delhi Pollution Control Committee and other stakeholders. The order came after Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) said there was no improvement in air quality in Delhi during the second week of the odd-even scheme in April.In fact, as per its report, the ambient air quality in Delhi during the odd-even implementation period was found to have deteriorated further than the level when the restriction was not in force, it said.”The counsel appearing for CPCB on instructions says there has been no improvement in ambient air quality of Delhi during implementation of odd-even scheme…The Chief Secretary, NCT of Delhi shall conduct a meeting in relation to ambient air quality in Delhi,” the bench said.The matter was listed for next hearing on November 16. Earlier, the apex pollution monitoring body had told NGT that the decline in vehicular emission in the second week of odd-even was not a dominant enough factor to impact the pollution levels. The CPCB had monitored several pollutants between April 1-14 before the odd-even period and April 15-30 during it, to arrive at the conclusion.The NGT was hearing a petition filed by scientist Mahendra Pandey who had sought independent monitoring of air quality index and alleged that vehicular emission was not a major contributing factor to pollution.In his petition, while referring to an IIT Roorkee study, Pandey had claimed that no significant change in air quality was registered during the first phase of the scheme which was earlier in force between January 1 and 15.

Threshold noise levels at airports reduced

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The country’s existing busy airports will now have to follow stricter noise pollution norms and airport operators will have to model noise for upcoming airports. The Union Ministry for Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has come out with draft noise standards for airports, reducing the existing threshold for noise limits. The draft notification has also issued guidelines on taking into account noise pollution during the time of environment clearances.The revised standards come in the wake of National Green Tribunal’s recent order to monitor noise limits at the Delhi International Airport. Residents of Vasant Kunj, Bijwasan and Indian Spinal Injuries Centre had moved to the NGT alleging noise violations and its impact on health. Following NGT’s orders, civil aviation ministry ordered the country’s busy airports to monitor noise levels.Presently, airports follow the Noise (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000, which categorises airports as ‘industrial zones’, where the noise limits are 75 decibels (dB) during the day and 70 dB during the night.But, for existing busy airports such as Mumbai and New Delhi, MoEFCC’s new draft standards has brought down the limits to 70 dB for day and 65 dB for night. For ‘other existing airports and upcoming or new airports’, the standards are 65dB for daytime and 60dB for night time. For airport operations and noise standards, day time is categorised as the period between 6am and 10pm, while night time is categorised between 10pm and 6am. The specified limits exclude the aircraft landing and take-off noise as that breaches the 100dB mark. Aircrafts generate maximum noise during take-offs and landing and the noise levels depend on the kind of engines they use.Experts though said that already, implementation of existing standards is not practical, and even the new standards will be difficult to enforce. “It is difficult to implement these conditions and impose flying restrictions to reduce noise as most commercial flights that land in the night account for valuable business,” said Dr Satish Pande, Director, Ela Foundation and ornithologist. Ela foundation has worked with the Mumbai airport operator GKV to study bird-hits.Besides revising the noise threshold, the ministry’s draft notification has said that new airports should undertake noise modeling and also consult with the Union Ministry of Urban Development to ensure proper land-use planning. “Any upcoming airports noise modeling shall be conducted by airport operators and results should be discussed during environment clearance with MoEFCC to ensure the proper land use planning and controlled developments by MoUD and concerned state development authorities, with regards to residential, institutions and commercial facilities and other sensitive areas in the airport noise zone,” the notification said.The notification has also asked the Directorate General of Civil Aviation to review the noise standards every three years. Furthermore, all airports will have to make public the noise mapping details of current and future aircraft movement on the websites of Union Ministry of Civil Aviation, MoUD and MoEFCC.In addition to regulation of noise, the notification has advocated for developing sound resistance in buildings and constructions. “Development authorities shall mandate all the building, facilities and projects of residential, hospital and institutional facilities to take noise mitigation measures through proper buildings design and construction and material use.”

Yamuna bank turns into a dump post Durga idol immersions

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A day after the capital celebrated the final day of the Durga Puja, when more than a hundred idols of the goddess were immersed at seven ghats of the already polluted river Yamuna, the place was strewn heavily with used bamboo sticks, polythene, pieces of cloth, rotting flowed and other puja material.At Kudsia Ghat, one of the busiest, during the immersion, a strong stench of sewage emanated from the water.The three municipal corporations said, they have deployed around 150 sanitation workers to clean the ghats of the waste material.”The Delhi government’s Irrigation and Flood Control Department collects the bamboos and other material out of the river at the banks, which the corporation workers then fill into trucks and take it to landfill sites for disposal.We have three trucks stationed at the ghats for the work. The cleaning up work will take a day,” said, a corporation spokesperson.Only last year, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned immersion of non-biodegradable idols using plastic, Plaster of Paris (POP) and harmful colours in the river.While the government’s, Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) claimed to monitor Durga Puja committees for making only clay idols using natural colours only, are immersed in the massively polluted water body, environmental activists believe it’s not enough.The DPCC will come out with its report on water quality before and after the immersion in three days. The committee checks the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) levels in the water to study contamination.The DPCC put up signages for water level and enclosures at the ghats to designate the spots for immersion, Kudsia Ghat, Geeta Ghat, Kalindi Kunj, Shyam Ghat, Hathi Ghat, Mayur Vihar extension Ghat and Geeta Colony Ghat.”The enclosures are not that well-monitored to see if all the material being immersed is non-biodegradable. Also, there is no patrolling at the ghats to keep a tab on the activities. Nobody is thinking about the river, which is already overloaded with pollutants and industrial waste. Idol immersions in the river lead to further compromising on its condition,” said Environmentalist Manoj Mishra.Meanwhile, a Delhi Environment department official, said, “As per the NGT guidelines, we ensured that Durga Puja Committees only make use of biodegradable material for making idols. Also, we did not allow people to immerse from non-designated spots. Necessary steps were taken to not allow the river to be polluted further.”

NGT’s website hacked: Litigants, lawyers unable to access daily orders and judgements

New Delhi: The hacked website of National Green Tribunal remained unaccessible for the second consecutive day on Wednesday after it was blocked by National Informatics Centre, with officials hoping that it would become operational in another couple of days.

National Green Tribunal's logo. Image courtesy: conservationinida.org

National Green Tribunal’s logo. Image courtesy: conservationinida.org

“This site can’t be reached,” said a message posted on the green panel’s website. NGT officials said the NIC was working on the site, which came under cyber attack with a group posting profanities, and it was likely to be restored soon.

“We have already complained to National Informatics Centre and the site is blocked as of now. We are in touch with them and hopefully the website would be restored in a day or two,” said an NGT official on condition of anonymity. The NGT officials said they were providing the causelists of cases to the NGT Bar Association who are in turn circulating it to others.

A case has already been registered in the cyber cell at the Tilak Marg police station in this regard. Litigants and lawyers, who accessed the website for a list of hearings scheduled were having a tough time as they could not access important contents like daily orders or judgements.

Advocate Balendu Shekhar, who represents East Delhi Municipal Corporation in the green panel, said the NGT’s orders used to get uploaded daily by the evening but after the hacking episode, the site has been down for two days now.

“The biggest issue is of compliance of the NGT order. Non-availabilty of the judicial order leads to delay in implementation of the order. So there is always a threat of contempt looming large,” he said. Another lawyer Gautam Singh said the NGT website was quite useful as it gave out the composition of bench, list of cases, daily orders, judgements or any latest announcements.

“There is now a delay in execution of orders as we have to ask for the orders which were earlier available online,” he said. Amul Mani Tripathi, a litigant, blamed the NGT officials for the problem and said he has filed a case but was totally unaware about when it would be listed for hearing.

The NGT website was hacked on 3 October evening by a group claiming it was an act of “revenge” against Indian army’s surgical strikes across the Line of Control.

Bengaluru demolition drive: As BBMP efforts enter second month, here’s what it should focus on

In the background of the entire nation’s focus on the Cauvery River water protests in Karnataka, the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has quietly renewed its demolition drive, which began in July.

BBMP’s demolition drive has been targeting encroachments on lake beds and rajakaluves or storm water drains (SWDs) after heavy rains flooded south west Bengaluru end of July. Nearly 600 houses were submerged after the city recorded 250mm of rain, the highest in more than five decades. The government had faced severe criticism that it was doing nothing to prevent flooding and stop the encroachments on lake beds and SWDs and the BBMP launched the demolition drive soon after.

But, what is amazing is that BBMP, which is normally known for its lethargy, has continued its demolition drive into the second month, stopping only for national holidays and festivals. It has already razed some 200 homes and structures, of the 1,923 encroachments identified. It has not deviated from its focus nor stopped its demolition drive after a mere tokenism.

Firstpost reached out to V Ravichander, Chairman and Managing Director, Feedback Consulting who is part of the three-member expert committee to restructure the Bangalore City Corporation. He told us, “the BBMP’s continued determination is to basically follow through the July directive of chief minister Siddaramaiah to clear vulnerable areas that were prone to flooding. I will reserve my judgement of BBMP’s credibility until the whole campaign is over.”

But, having said that, Ravichander added, “as long as BBMP’s broad intent is maintained and neither the high nor the low are spared, they would be sending a clear message to the future, that if you violate the law, we’ll proceed against you.”

What is interesting, is that the BBMP has been seen targeting the big builders too. Karnataka Law Minister TB Jayachandra told reporters after a recent Cabinet meeting, that nobody would be spared and that malls, high-rise buildings and apartment blocks built illegally on storm water drains would be demolished. Soon, an FIR was filed against 20 officers and six builders for corruption by the Bangalore Metropolitan Task Force under the direction of the BBMP. The officers booked were BBMP and Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), both serving and retired officials for granting clearances over the years.

However, some of the influential members were able to get re-surveys ordered on the encroachments. Orion Mall and Prestige Tech park which came under the BBMP’s scanner got a reprieve when a re-survey was ordered to confirm their encroachments. A re-survey was also ordered on actor Darshan’s home and a Congress leader’s home, both of which came under the encroachment scanner.

Bangalore Metropolitan Task Force (BMTF) at work in Bengaluru. Image Courtesy: bmtf.gov.in

Bangalore Metropolitan Task Force (BMTF) at work in Bengaluru. Image Courtesy: bmtf.gov.in

Ravichander said, “Although a re-survey seems like a sign of influence, we also don’t have enough data to show the encroachments. So, sometimes a re-survey is needed.” But, as he says, if after the –resurvey, it’s proved that the builder or the influential owner had encroached upon the SWDs, then the BBMP must act.

Ravichander also feels that there is a need to now step back and rethink whether the demolition drive is the only way to go about clearing flood prone areas. ‘There have been incidents when even after clearing encroachments in past years, the flooding of the areas did not stop. We should rethink watershed management, associated rajakaluve (storm water drains) and streams, continuity between tanks, land cover within watershed and mobility networks. This will help us avoid flooding and minimize demolition.”

This does make sense, as many public properties, like bus stands, golf courses, playgrounds and residential colonies have been built on lake beds. Can the government really go back that far back into the past and change the topography of Bengaluru? Is it feasible?

But, with the Damocles sword hanging over their projects, some 250 big builders met under the Confederation of Real Estate Developers Associations of India (CREDAI) banner in end August, and reiterated that their projects had the approvals, sanctions and occupancy certificates and there had been no violations from their side.

Meanwhile, there has been much angst over the maps that BBMP has been basing the demolitions on — the 1902 mother document, updated to 1962 revenue maps. Builders have questioned the maps being used by the BBMP, saying that there was a lot of confusion between the revenue maps and BBMP’s Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) of 2015.

Why doesn’t the BDA trust its own CDP? Were the rajakaluves diverted by conniving officers on the behest of wily builders, so that their projects looked legally tenable, is that why BBMP is relying on old revenue maps? BBMP has now put up maps across the city on its website detailing encroachment violation on rajakaluves and warning people to remove them.

Clarifying the question of the maps, Ravichander says “the CDP document is mainly a land use document and does not specify SWDs alignment and thus is not a legal document. It also contains a clause that in case of dispute, the mother document had to be referred to, which are the revenue maps.”

Ravichander is now working on combining all the various documents available – the map layers planned for public viewing, village maps, storm water drains, CDP 2015, contour maps, vulnerable areas and ward boundaries.

In Bengaluru, encroachment is one of the main reasons for the near disappearance of the wetlands in and around Bengaluru. So shocking is the condition of the lakes in and around Bengaluru that only some 17 healthy lakes exist today. At one time, Bengaluru was referred to as the city of 1000 lakes.

Both the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and the Supreme Court has come down heavily on builders in Bengaluru. The NGT directed civic authorities to demolish or disallow any further construction around 75 metres from a lake and 50 metres around primary storm water drains. The Supreme Court concurred with NGT and asked builders in the buffer zones of Bengaluru’s lakes and wetlands to push back their projects 75 metres from the edge of these water bodies and refused to halt demolitions initiated by BBMP.

So, what is the next step for BBMP?

To ensure that its demolition drive is not mere tokenism and spare no-one, high or low.
To freeze the maps which it is using to decide how far back into the past it will go to decide on encroachments.
To re-build the rajakaluves and clear the silt in the existing SWDs so that rainwater can flow freely through the SWDs.
To maintain the 68 lakes still existing and recover as many of the 261 lakes that have been encroached upon since 1961.

Ban on big diesel cars, SUVs in Delhi-NCR ‘unfortunate’, says Prakash Javadekar

Chakan: Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar on Wednesday said the ban on diesel cars and SUVs with engines above 2,000cc in Delhi-NCR by courts “is not the right way.”

Calling it “unfortunate,” he said the government is already taking measures to curb pollution and the ban has
resulted in vehicles with latest technologies not being allowed while old polluting vehicles continue plying on the roads.

Prakash Javadekar. PTIPrakash Javadekar. PTI

Prakash Javadekar. PTI

“I am very sure that courts will also appreciate that there has to be a certainty of policy and execution. Policy and execution are the job of the executive, legality of any decision is the job of the judiciary,” Javadekar said.

He further added, “Legislature’s job is to legislate and these are the few organs, which are created by the
constitution, which must work independently. We must sustain each other and we must work independently that is the real need of the hour. When all will move in one direction, we will achieve goals more than what we have planned to achieve.”

Commenting on the ban imposed on registration of big diesel cars and SUVs in Delhi-NCR since December last year, the minister did not refer to the Supreme Court by name but just mentioned courts and the NGT.

“I think that this is not the right way, it’s unfortunate …court also needs to appreciate that because you are banning the latest vehicles and old vehicles are plying on the roads that are more polluting,” he said.

Javadekar was apparently referring to the Supreme Court, which has extended the ban until the next hearing which is expected in July.

Air pollution has not increased only in last two years. It has aggravated over the last ten years, he added.

“Judiciary now should also appreciate that the government has taken steps…(like) migration to Euro VI to fight pollution,” the minister added.

He further said, “In the environment ministry we have made emission norms more stringent practically for all industries and that’s the right direction in controlling pollution. So we are taking decisions we are making all efforts.”

Javadekar was speaking at the inauguration of a new Rs 100-crore plant of Force Motors from where the company will supply engines and axles to Mercedes-Benz India.

Kerala HC stays NGT’s order banning diesel vehicles older than 10 years

The Kerala High Court on Friday stayed the National Green Tribunal’s order which banned diesel vehicles that are older than 10 years in six cities across Kerala.The High Court had last month stayed the NGT order which directed the state government not to register any diesel vehicle with capacity of 2000 CC and more, except public transport and local authority vehicles.In a landmark judgement, an NGT bench in Kochi had on May 23 banned light and heavy diesel vehicles, which are more than 10 years old, in six major cities, including Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Kochi, Thrissur, Kozhikode and Kannur.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The order was issued against diesel vehicles while hearing a petition filed by Lawyers’ Environmental Awareness Forum.The bench had also directed the traffic police to take action and charge a fine of Rs. 5,000 as environment compensation from defaulters.The petition had demanded toxic gases by the old diesel vehicles such as lorries and buses should be immediately curtailed and a strict rule should be brought for it.

We haven’t damaged Yamuna floodplains ecology: Art of Living Foundation

New Delhi: The Art of Living (AoL) Foundation led by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on Monday said it has paid the Rs 5-crore environment compensation imposed by the National Green Tribunal but maintained it did not cause any damage to the Yamuna floodplains in Delhi.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. AFP

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. AFP

“We are yet to produce our evidence in court. We are presenting the evidence before the media just to enable the people understand that we have done nothing wrong,” Jaideep Nath of AoL said.

“We paid the compensation to assure the National Green Tribunal that we are financially good. We have paid the amount but if we win the case, we will ask for its refund,” he added.

Nath said in the first place, there was never any biodiversity in the floodplains which the World Culture Festival organised by the AoL in March would have destroyed.

“It is an agricultural land ploughed by the locals. We never levelled it, as is being alleged by many as it was already a plain and level piece of land,” Nath asserted.

AoL lawyer Kedar Desai said: “The foundation’s legal team is studying the NGT’s verdict and we will decide whether to challenge the verdict in the Supreme Court or not, once court summer vacations are over.”

On March 9, the NGT refused to prohibit the holding of the World Culture Festival on the Yamuna floodplains, but slapped a fine of Rs.5 crore on the foundation.

The foundation deposited only Rs.25 lakh before the three-day event kicked off on March 11.

On May 31, the NGT directed the AoL to pay the remaining Rs.4.75 crore as environment compensation.

Art of Living will pay Rs 5-cr fine, but will fight to get it back: Sri Sri Ravishankar

In a peculiar turn of events, the organisers of the world’s largest cultural festival in the National Capital Region have agreed to pay the Rs five-crore fine imposed by a top environment court but decided to contest the decision and seek a refund.

“We will pay the cash, but fight to get it back and use it for development purposes, we could even go to the Supreme Court,” Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the spiritual head of Art of Living that organised the 11 to 13 March festival, said in a telephonic interview with Firstpost.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said he has petitioned the Ministry of Environment and Forests to form an independent panel to probe the charges because “we are not convinced we have caused damage to the riverbanks as claimed”.

“Let a scientific panel look into the charges, let there be no motivational issues in resolving a needless crisis.

Hundreds of thousands of devotees attended the event on what was billed as the world’s largest stage, spread across seven acres.

AOL paid Rs 25 lakh at the time, and said the rest would be given later. They then asked that the 4.75 crore that they owed be treated as a bank guarantee and that it should apply towards creating a biodiversity park in the area.

The National Green Tribunal blamed AOL for using the order of the court to hold the event and then going back on its commitment, filing multiple legal cases in order not to pay the fine. “The conduct of the foundation has been called into question,” the NGT said.

File image of Sri Sri Ravishankar. Twitter @SriSri

File image of Sri Sri Ravishankar. Twitter @SriSri

The NGT, during the hearing, had said the fine was an interim one and that its panel had suggested a much higher fine, the amount going into the range of Rs 100-120 crore.

Environmentalists had accused organisers of ripping up vegetation and ruining the river’s fragile ecosystem by damaging its bed and disrupting water flows.

“We have filed two appeals, one against the quantum of fine and second against the biased report submitted by the panel, seeking its replacement. We didn’t file multiple cases to delay the process. I will prove that we improved the site, not damaged it,” said the 60-year-old spiritual guru.

The opening of the event was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, though President Pranab Mukherjee dropped out after controversy over environmental clearances erupted.

“This could be another, bitter green debate, but I am ready for it because I am not at all convinced at the charges and would like an independent assessment made.

“I am sad AOL is being dragged into these needlessly. It is like being fined despite driving through a green signal on the road,” Sri Sri added.

He said he had offered to meet up with the panel of environmentalists who levelled the charges but heard nothing from them. A detailed point-by-point rebuttal prepared by AOL in response to charges levelled by the green brigade went unnoticed.

“But one thing is clear, if this is a fight, let the fight resume. Like some have benefit of knowledge, some (referring to the green brigade) have the benefit of ignorance. They are blaming a group that has cleaned a little over 600 tonnes of garbage from the Yamuna,” he said.

The spiritual guru said he and his team are even ready for an “open debate” on allegations of damage to the area’s delicate ecosystem.

“I am all for it, I am ready for a conversation but do not haul us over the coals for something we have not done, like saying we have cut down all the trees, destroyed all vegetation in the plains and disrupted the flow of the river. Pontoon bridges do not disrupt flow of the rivers,” he added.

Setback for Art of Living, NGT orders to pay balance Rs4.75 crore compensation

In a setback for the Art of Living Foundation, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Tuesday ordered them to fork out Rs4.75 crore in a week, the balance of the Rs 5 crore environment compensation they had imposed on the non-governmental organisation for “drastically tampering with the (Yamuna) floodplains”. The Tribunal had passed an order on March 9 in which it said that the preparations for the NGO’s mega-event, to celebrate its 35th anniversary had “drastically tampered with the flood plains, destroying natural flow of river and natural vegetation on the river bed.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>While reading out the order on Tuesday, justice Swatanter Kumar said that the Tribunal was dismissing the NGO’s plea to pay the balance compensation as a bank guarantee. While rejecting the plea, the Kumar also imposed a cost of Rs.5000 on the NGO. He slammed the NGO’s plea and said that it “lacked bona fide”. He went on to add, “The order of the court was used to hold the event and then you went back on its commitment. The organizers engaged in multiplicity of litigations to not pay the compensation and thus their conduct is questionable.”The Tribunal said that the NGO should use the union culture ministry’s grant to pay the balance compensation. The union culture ministry has granted the NGO Rs2.5 crore for their World Culture Festival and Rs.1.68 crore has already been disbursed, counsel for Art of Living revealed to the NGT bench on March 11.After the Tribunal imposed an environment compensation of Rs5 crore on the NGO its founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar had said that he would rather go to jail than pay the fine. Later, on the day of the event, on March 11, the NGO approached the Tribunal and pleaded for more time to pay the compensation. The NGT, though, asked the NGO to pay up Rs.25 lakh and granted three weeks of time to pay the balance amount. But, the NGO instead pleaded to the NGT that it should be allowed to pay the balance as a bank guarantee.Meanwhile, on the issue of reconstituting the expert body that will inspect the Yamuna floodplains to fix a final compensation, the Art of Living Foundation had moved a plea to appoint new members alleging bias. But, the Tribunal did not entertain the NGO’s plea on Tuesday and said that two more members can be added to the committee on the condition that the NGO withdraw their application. But, the NGO did not accept the condition and has decided to challenge the inspection and constitution of the committee.The expert committee, headed by secretary, union water secretary, will now have to go ahead with its inspection of the floodplains and has to submit its report in a sealed cover to the Tribunal before July 4.

Identify two most polluted cities in each state, study emissions from diesel, petrol: NGT to states

While putting off extension of diesel vehicle ban to other cities in the country, the National Green Tribunal, on Tuesday, asked all states to identify two most polluted cities in their states within three weeks. Additionally, it has asked states to file a detailed affidavit on vehicular pollution in these two cities, the different sources of pollution, data on petrol and diesel emissions, ambient air quality and impact of mining and industries on air quality. “We need complete data and through their secretaries, the states should file affidavits within three weeks,” said Swatanter Kumar, chairperson, NGT.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Earlier on Monday, the NGT bench had asked all states to submit data on cities worst affected by pollution. But most states asked the bench for more time to submit the data. Only Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Jharkhand and Bihar was ready with data on pollution.After the Supreme Court banned registration of new diesel vehicles and the southern bench of NGT banned diesel vehicles in Kerala, a petition was moved to extend the ban across other major cities. Meanwhile, the union ministry of heavy industries had opposed the plea for extending the ban to other cities. Arguing against the plea for the ministry of heavy industries, additional solicitor general Pinky Anand, said, “A lot of investment is coming in the sector which will provide a lot of employment opportunity. A ban will also affect Make In India.”Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, too, opposed the extension of the ban. Appearing for SIAM, senior lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi argued that instead of using a “sledgehammer” approach, any decision should be taken after source apportionment studies are carried out. “We need source apportionment studies that provide data on emissions fuel wise and also as per vehicles,” said Singhvi.

Forest fire aftermath: NGT bars Uttarakhand govt from cutting trees for roadworks

New Delhi: A plea alleging “nexus” between “timber mafia and officials” who were behind the recent fire incidents in Uttarakhand prompted the National Green Tribunal on Friday to restrain the state government from chopping of trees for construction of road in the state.

“We restrain Government of Uttarakhand and the contractors working from cutting and felling any trees from forest land for the purposes of melting the coal tar for laying metalled road in the State of Uttarakhand,” a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said.

The order came after the state government failed to file its response on a plea seeking a CBI inquiry to ascertain the reason of forest fires that have raged the state having severe impact on the environment.

The tribunal noted that despite grant of opportunity no reply has been filed by Uttarakhand government and also the administration is unable to dispute the fact that the trees are being cut and burnt for melting the coal tar for laying road.

File photo of the Uttarakhand forest fire. PTI

File photo of the Uttarakhand forest fire. PTI

During the hearing, advocate Sugriva Dubey, appearing for the petitioner, referred to a RTI reply filed by Public Works Department which said that wood was being used for melting coal tar during construction and repair of roads in Nainintal and Almora districts of Uttarakhand.

The matter is now listed for next hearing on 3 August.

The tribunal was hearing a plea by NGO Friends which had alleged that a “nexus of timber mafia, some greedy villagers and officials” was suspected to be behind the fire incidents which have caused severe degradation of the environment.

In its plea, the NGO had said that an inquiry should be ordered to be conducted by judicial authority to investigate the reason for the fire incidents and the state should be directed to ban the practice of burning of woods for road works.

It had alleged that Uttarakhand government has not taken any “effective step to control the fire” due to which almost the entire hilly area was affected.

The plea had claimed that more than “1300 incidents of forest blaze have taken plan in the present season and more than 2600 hectares of forest area has been ruined” in the state.

The tribunal had earlier on 4 May sought responses of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and governments of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh on a separate plea on the issue of forest fires raging in both the states.

Rajasthan: Thousands of quarries shut down as deadline to obtain NGT nod closes in

Jodhpur: As the 31 May deadline set by National Green Tribunal (NGT) for stone mines in the district to obtain environmental clearance draws nearer, over 5,900 sandstone quarries in Balesar region have already shut down and 218 others are facing imminent closure as their pleas for green nod remain pending.

The mine operators are hoping that the issue would be taken up at the national meeting of state mines ministers to be presided by Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar in Jaipur.

The NGT had ordered shutdown of all mines in the district which do not obtain environmental clearance (EC) by 31 May. Over 5,900 quarries have already closed down after they failed to apply for the green nod, dealing a severe blow to the economy of this town which depends on mining activities.

Representational Image.ReutersRepresentational Image.Reuters

Representational Image.Reuters

In a notification dated 10 May, the mining department has given ultimatum to license holders, who have applied for EC up to 31 March but did not get the green nod, to also suspend work in their quarries from 1 June.

“Due to this condition, over 5,900 quarries have already closed down and with the EC not available to even 218 licensees, who had applied up to 31 March, all the quarries are set to close down from 1 June,” said Pappu Ram Kachhawaha, one of the licensees.

He said that they were ready to comply with the NGT directions of obtaining EC, but said the process of giving green nod should be expedited so that quarries are not affected.

Most of the licensees claimed that the delay in applying for the EC was due to confusion over process.

“Neither the department nor any other source clearly told us where we were supposed to apply. And now suddenly, we have started receiving notices from the mining department since past one week,” said Kachhawaha.

The NGT has made it mandatory to obtain the EC for all those mines falling under B1 category (5–25 hectares in size), but the quarry holders of Balesar have been demanding their quarries to be placed under B2 category (1– 5 hectare in size)
so that they are not compelled to have the EC.

“Almost all the quarries in Balesar are below 1 hectare in size but according to the new environmental policy, there is a provision to declare the mines of single mineral in a periphery of 500 meters with size less than 5 hectare as a cluster.

“This formula has shot up sizes of our small quarries beyond 5 hectare, which is a B-1 category,” claimed another licensee Bajrang Sharma.

Recently, the MP from Jodhpur, Gajendra Singh, had met Environment Minister Prakash Javdekar with a delegation seeking relaxation in rules as these small quarry holders have already taken Consent to Operate from the pollution control
board.

In January, 2015, the green tribunal asked the existing mining lease holders to obtain environmental clearance from the state and district assessment authorities.

The NGT later extended the application period till January, 2016. Early this month, it refused to grant any further extension.

NGT bans diesel vehicles more than 10-year-old in Kerala

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday banned light and heavy diesel vehicles more than 10-year-old in six major cities of Kerala.The NGT bench after hearing a petition filed by Lawyers Environmental Awareness Forum (LEAF) ordered that diesel vehicles over 10-year-old may not be allowed to ply in cities six, including Thiruvananthapuram, Kothamangalam, Thrissur and Kozhikode, after 30 days from today.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The bench also directed the traffic police to take action and charge a fine of Rs 5,000 as environment compensation from defaulters.The petition had demanded toxic gases by the old diesel vehicles such as lorries and buses should be immediately curtailed and a strict rule should be brought for it.

Sewage in Ganga: NGT issues show cause notices to five municipal bodies in UP

New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal on Friday issued notices to the Chief Executive Officers of five municipal councils in Uttar Pradesh to show cause why environmental compensation be not imposed on them for their failure to comply with “statutory obligations” on discharge of untreated sewage water in Ganga.

NGT slammed the municipal bodies of Mirzapur, Chunar, Bhadohi, Fatehpur and Hastinapur in Uttar Pradesh for not complying with environment rules. AFP

NGT slammed the municipal bodies of Mirzapur, Chunar, Bhadohi, Fatehpur and Hastinapur in Uttar Pradesh for not complying with environment rules. AFP

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar slammed the municipal bodies of Mirzapur, Chunar, Bhadohi, Fatehpur and Hastinapur in Uttar Pradesh for not complying with environment rules.

“We direct the said authorities to show cause as to why environmental compensation in term Section 15 and 17 of National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 be not imposed upon them de-horse relief prayed for in this application.

“The reply shall also contain show cause notice which is primarily issued for their failure to comply with statutory and public law obligations and the directions issued by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB),” the green panel said.

Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, appearing for CPCB, said cleaning up of the Ganga is a priority for the government and if there would be non-cooperation then it would be difficult for it to meet the deadline on rejuvenation of the river.

The matter is now listed for next hearing on 11 July.

The tribunal was hearing a plea by CPCB seeking directions to UPPCB and the CEOs of these five municipal councils to “prepare a plan of action to clean river Ganga and water bodies, ground water and soil in a time-bound manner and recover the cost of preparation and execution of such plan of action from the polluters.”

CPCB said it had earlier also issued direction to UPPCB for treatment of sewage and restoration of water quality and had also asked it to submit a time-bound action plan for proper collection, treatment and disposal of sewage.

It had alleged that despite reminders no such action plan was formulated by these five municipal councils.

“The respondents (UPPCB and five municipal councils) have failed to provide adequate sewage network and also failed to install sewage treatment plants for effective treatment of sewage discharged into the river,” the petition had claimed.

“Their failure to act is causing irreparable environmental damage to Ganga and has massive ramifications for the people at large in Uttar Pradesh,” it had said.

CPCB had also said that it has identified one of the longest polluted stretches in river Ganga from Kannauj to Varanasi and the main cause of pollution in the river was discharge of untreated or partially treated sewage.

How insects are marring the beauty of the Taj Mahal

After fears of a terrorist attack, frequent maintenance problems, or its structure virtually creaking under the weight of uncontrolled footfall, the latest threat to the Taj Mahal comes from a most unpredictable source: insects which are leaving dark green stains on its beautiful white marble.Dumping in the YamunaUncontrolled stagnation in the Yamuna near the iconic 17thcentury monument has led to a greenish-black pigmentation on the marble due to the breeding of an insect called Chironomus Calligraphus (Geoldichironomus). Rampant dumping of municipal waste into the river near the Taj is at the root of the problem.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>NGT kicks in to actionReports of the pigmentation have caught the attention of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which took a stern view and issued notices to the Centre and the state on Monday.A bench, headed by NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar, issued notices to the ministry of environment and forests, UP government, state pollution control board, state environment impact assessment authority and others. The order came on the plea of environment activist and Agra resident DK Joshi.Officials unawareThe creepy threat might be sensational for Taj admirers and environmentalists worldwide, but officials concerned in the UP government seem to be woefully and completely unaware of the problem.“It is the job of the Archeological Survey of India (ASI),” came the prompt reply from the UP Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) chief environment officer in-charge of Agra region, Dr Akhlaq Hussain. He had no idea about the insect menace or the NGT order.UPPCB member secretary SC Yadav and state environment impact assessment authority chairman Dr SC Bhatt were equally unaware.The petitionIn his writ, the petitioner had relied on a recent ASI report which states that these insects are staining the walls of the Taj Mahal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, greenish-black.“School of Entymology, St John’s School, Agra, did a preliminary report and found that the insect was causing damage to the Taj,” the petition said while seeking the constitution of a committee to look into the problem.“Due to negligible water flow in the Yamuna, the area has turned into a swamp with heavy algal growth and phosphorus, which are the primary source of food for this particular species of insects,” the report stated. The reason for the high levels of phosphorus has been blamed on the practice of releasing ash from dead bodies that are burnt next to the monument into the Yamuna.Dr Girish Maheshwari, head of the entomology department, St John’s College, in his report to ASI said the insects live in large swarms and are attracted to the white stone of the Taj. “The swarming is a nuptial flight of the males and females of this species,” he stated. The bolus of the chlorophyll is formed when they are in their larval form. This bolus is discarded by the adults as faeces which are staining the Taj.However, the big relief for Taj lovers is that the stains can be washed off with plain water.

Happy birthday Sri Sri: Will his sixties include a Nobel Peace Prize (that he’ll decline)?

Rejoice, ladies and gentlemen. Because today is the birthday of the environment-loving, always smiling and the future Nobel laureate Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

That’s right. Today, the great spiritual leader, who showed us all how magnanimous he really is by sending a ‘peace message’ to Islamic State (with disastrous results) and blowing all our minds by showing us why teenager activist Malala Yousafzai did not deserve the Nobel Prize, turns 60.

And just in case you’ve been living in a cave (on Mars with your hands cupped over your ears and your eyes shut tight) for the past few months, here’s a recap:

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar will get a Nobel Prize, whether he likes it or not (Although we suspect that he will like it). Reuters

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar will get a Nobel Prize, whether he likes it or not (Although we suspect that he will like it). Reuters

“Nowadays, there is no value to the Nobel Prize. When you award it to a 16-year-old girl who hasn’t done anything, what value is left? It has become a political prize,” Hindustan Times had quoted the great leader as saying when he was asked about Malala getting the Nobel Peace Prize.

Uss ladki ne kuch bhi nahin kiya (That girl did nothing),” ANI had quoted Sri Sri as saying.

Of course, standing up for education for women and girls in the region of Swat Valley in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan (a region infamous for being controlled by local Taliban where girls had been banned at times from attending school) amounts to “nothing”.

Malala Yousafzai clearly did not do anything to deserve the Nobel Peace Prize. Thanks, Sri Sri.

So, what does a person need to do to win a Nobel Prize? The answer is simple: Pollute, silly!

Even though the great Sri Sri had made it very clear that he had rejected the Nobel Prize offered to him earlier, we really think he will unwillingly accept one which will obviously be offered to him for getting two contempt notices for violating the orders of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), with regard to the World Culture Festival (WCF) he organised on the banks of the Yamuna in March 2016.

Sri Sri might also be just a bit worried that his chance to win a Nobel is running out. But there have been a lot of people (Kailash Satyarthi, Woodrow Wilson, Kofi Annan) who were 60 or above when they got a Nobel Peace Prize.

Moreover, because his 50s were full of amazing achievements like making petty remarks against a teenager or fighting allegations of polluting the environment, we’re pretty sure that his 60s will also be full of such greatness.

For example, maybe Sri Sri will now say that Sunny Leone did nothing to share her birthday with a man as great as him. “Uss ladki ne kuch bhi nahin kiya” could be a remark used against Sunny Leone now. After all, for a person so great that his ‘achievements’ are better than standing up for women’s education, one should also have certain qualifications to share a birthday with him.

Considering his love for sending ‘peace messages’, Sri Sri might also send one to Donald Trump, asking him to get rid of his racist and communal thoughts. We’re not sure how Trump would respond though. He might just propose banning Sri Sri from entering the United States too.

Or maybe the World Culture Festival will actually live up to its name now and go global. Maybe Sri Sri will decide that facing allegations of polluting the environment next to the Yamuna was not enough and that this needs to happen globally. After all, as we earlier said, nothing gets you a Nobel Prize faster than pollution.

So don’t worry, Sri Sri. There are still enough opportunities for you to win — or maybe continuously reject — the Nobel Peace Prize.

Plant 2000 trees in lieu of 216 chopped at Yamuna Vihar, NGT tells Delhi govt

New Delhi: Expressing concern over reckless felling of trees in large numbers, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday directed the Delhi government to plant 2,000 trees for chopping 216, in a residential colony in north east Delhi.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar also pulled up the Chief Engineer of Public Works Department and warned him of imposing costs if he failed to abide by the orders of the tribunal.

Representational image. IBNLive.Representational image. IBNLive.

Representational image. IBNLive.

“Respondents shall do afforestation of 2,000 trees in lieu of 216 trees felled in Yamuna Vihar,” the bench said.

The tribunal had earlier restrained the city government from felling trees till further directions and directed filing of a contempt petition against it for defying its orders.

The direction came while hearing a plea by advocate SD Windlesh, who had alleged that in a service lane of four square metres, in a Yamuna Vihar colony, the PWD had cut down nearly 400 trees without permission to widen the road.

The plea had said the service lane had a 15 metre-long lush green belt of trees that attracted residents in the mornings for walking, jogging and enjoying fresh air, but all was destroyed.

NGT warns Delhi Jal Board: Don’t play smart game with us

The Delhi Jal Board (DJB) was on Tuesday taken to task over construction of a sewage treatment plant by the National Green Tribunal which warned its officials not to play a “smart game” on the issue concerning pollution in river Yamuna.Gujarat Lions vs Delhi Daredevils Live Cricket Score, 31st T20, Indian Premier League 2016, May 3, 2016″For the past one-and-a-half years, we are grappling with this problem which has been generated by your client (DJB). Tell your officers not to play smart game with us. This is causing us lot of concern. Your client is causing suspicion,” a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar told the counsel appearing for DJB.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The bench was irked that it was not informed earlier that the sewage treatment plant (STP) at Delhi Gate drain was not working properly.”Why we were not told about all this? This is very unfair. Should the tribunal rely on you (DJB)? You have frustrated the tribunal. We went out of the way to help the DJB but everytime DJB is found to be wrong,” the bench said.Senior counsel H S Phoolka, who appeared for DJB, told the NGT that when this STP was constructed, it was not anticipated that it would have so much load. He also said that flow of waste water would be diverted to other STPs.The bench, however, directed DJB to furnish details about work covered under phase one of their projects and also budget expenditure plans by May 9, the next date of hearing. The tribunal on Monday had come down heavily on DJB over construction of the STP at Delhi Gate drain here and had also directed it to provide details of planned expenditure in the current fiscal with regard to water and sewage sector.The bench is monitoring the implementation of its ‘Maili se Nirmal Yamuna Revitalisation Project’. In order to keep the Yamuna river clean, DJB had last year started trial run of its newly constructed 15 MGD waste water treatment plant at Delhi Gate Nalla.According to the DJB, the plant, which is odourless and functions on clean fuel, has been constructed at a cost of Rs 204 crore. The waste water treatment plant aims to tap highly polluted water from old Delhi areas.The tribunal had earlier rapped DJB for spending money on Yamuna without its permission and had directed it not to spend a “single penny” on rejuvenation of river without its nod. It had also directed DJB not to surrender the amount allocated to it in the last fiscal for rejuvenation of Yamuna to the Delhi government and asked it to spend the funds for implementation of its ‘Maili se Nirmal Yamuna Revitalisation Project’.

Odd-even phase 2: NGT directs pollution control board to monitor pollution levels

New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal on Tuesday asked the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to independently monitor and record the data of ambient air quality in Delhi during the ongoing second phase of the odd-even scheme.

A bench, headed by NGT chairperson Swatanter Kumar, also asked CPCB to record and analyse the data of before and after the fortnight-long scheme period.

A file image of challan being issued for non-compliance of the Odd-Even rule. Firstpost.

A file image of challan being issued for non-compliance of the odd-even rule. Firstpost.

During the brief hearing, counsel for Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) informed the green panel that they have already been recording the data independently for ambient air quality in the national capital in the context of the car rationing scheme, which would end on 30 April.

The bench, while disposing of a petition filed by scientist Mahendra Pandey, previously associated with CPCB, said the concerned agencies will record and independently monitor the air pollution level during the running of the scheme.

He has sought independent monitoring of air quality index and alleged that vehicular emission was not a major contributing factor to the pollution.

In his petition, while referring to an IIT Roorkee study, Pandey has claimed that no significant change in air quality was registered during the first phase of the scheme which was in force between 1 to 15 January.

“In fact, as per the data provided by CPCB, it is clear that during odd even days the pollution levels were much higher than the pre-period and the post-period which raises serious concern about the much-hyped odd-even formula.

“After the completion of first phase of odd-even scheme, tall claims were made by the Delhi government by publishing advertisements in newspapers about its success. However, no data was made public regarding the level of pollution till today. Therefore, the claims of success of the odd-even scheme is meaningless as it is not supported by any data,” the plea had said.

He has sought directions to CPCB and DPCC for separately monitoring levels of all parameters listed in Ambient Air Quality Standards during the second phase of the scheme so that proper comparison can be drawn.

Art of Living seeks NGT nod to submit bank guarantee instead of compensation

New Delhi: 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 11 to 13 March.

The NGT on 9 March 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.

Preparations for the AOL event. Naresh Sharma/FirstpostPreparations for the AOL event. Naresh Sharma/Firstpost

Preparations for the AOL event. Naresh Sharma/Firstpost

After AOL failed to pay up, the tribunal relaxed that order on 11 March 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.

“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 1 April) to submit only a bank guarantee is in contravention of not only the NGT direction dated 11 March, 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.

Issue of IIT in Jammu under NGT scanner; the tribunal issues notice to HRD ministry, J&K govt

New Delhi: The transfer of 159 hectares of land to establish an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Jammu district has come under the scanner of National Green Tribunal’s scanner which has sought the government’s response on a plea claiming it was forest land.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar issued notices to the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Environment Ministry, Jammu and Kashmir government and others while seeking their reply by 31 March.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The direction while hearing a plea by a Jammu native, Nigam Priye Saroop, who has challenged the transfer of 159
hectares of forest land to the Higher Education Department of the state government on the ground that it would damage the environment and ecology of the area.

Saroop, a law student, has contended that the transfer of the forest land is not “justified” when other vast stretches of waste and unproductive lands are available in abundance in Jammu and other districts like Rajouri, Udhampur and Samba for establishment of IIT.

Saroop has further claimed that the transfer of forest land will adversely affect the eco-sensitive zone of Ramnagar Wildlife Sanctuary which is natural wildlife habitat.

“The authorities have started mercilessly felling and axing thick forest without count which is not less than a
disaster for the entire flora and fauna. It is likely to cause environmental and ecological damage beyond repair if the respondents are not prevented and injuncted to stop work in the forest land immediately…

“The Jammu Higher Education Department through its agents and contractors has started mercilessly felling the Green Gold forest trees and started destroying the habitat of wildlife even without any formal orders by any competent authority.. It requires immediate stoppage otherwise the entire forest belt of the area will be destroyed,” the plea alleged.

PTI

Clout of Living: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s controversial World Culture Festival kicks off in New Delhi

By Padma Rao Sundarji

In an hour from now, two spanking new pontoon bridges – assembled across the Yamuna in no time by our sturdy army jawans at the order of the Government of India – will be thrown open. For the next three evenings, about 5 lakh residents of Delhi and neighbouring Noida are expected to stream across to witness the World Culture Festival (WCF) hosted by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of the Art of Living (AoL) meditation and wellness program, on the highly fragile floodplains of the dying river.

New Delhi: Artists rehearse on the eve of the three-day World Peace Festival being organised by Art of Living Foundation in New Delhi on Thursday. PTINew Delhi: Artists rehearse on the eve of the three-day World Peace Festival being organised by Art of Living Foundation in New Delhi on Thursday. PTI

New Delhi: Artists rehearse on the eve of the three-day World Peace Festival being organised by Art of Living Foundation in New Delhi on Thursday. PTI

If public opinion had had its way, the Big Bash may not have taken place, at least not at this venue. But the National Green Tribunal (NGT) yesterday gave it a green signal with a caveat: that the AoL Foundation pay Rs 5 crore, the first instalment of a hefty fine for not seeking the Tribunal’s clearance in time, before the first gate at the event is thrown open.

The controversy around the WCF has already taken casualties. President Pranab Mukherji is staying home. Zimbabwe’s controversial president Robert Mugabe -known in his country as a ‘serial traveller’ for his penchant for lavish trips at tax-payers’ expense – flew all the way to India but took the next plane back home, citing ‘inadequate security’. Many other international statesmen and guests may not show up too. We shall know when the WCF’s parallel daytime event – its ‘Global Leadership Forum’ (GLF) – begins on Saturday morning.

Whatever the Zimbabwean head of state may have cited as a reason for his returning home prematurely, the attendance of international VIPs has ensured a posse of sniffer dogs and the presence of more than 5000 policemen of the already resources and staff-strapped Delhi Police. Thousands of their counterparts of the traffic wing will be working 16-18 hours days over the weekend too.

It cannot escape the notice of even the less-religiously inclined BJP voter, ie, the so-called ‘centrist’, that Hindu religious functions and rituals have proliferated, ever since the party came to power with an overwhelming majority in 2014. Indeed and though their bashes have always been carefully peppered with the Ram-Robert-Rahim formula: Bollywood’s tried and tested masala created to promote ‘secularism’ , the top-note of AoL’s functions remains markedly ‘Hindu’,

At the WCF too, spiritual leaders swathed in veshtis, kanduras, keffiyehs and cassocks will cast their benign gaze upon African drummers, Turkish dervishes and Bharatanatyam nayikas and their dizzying display of ‘universal brotherhood’ . It is hoped that this artistic oneness will intoxicate thousands in the audience, make them realize just how like each other they are and – fervently swear to end all conflict, hunger and poverty on earth.

No harm in dreaming, of course. And no doubts at all in the fact that AoL has successfully packaged and marketed its cross-cultural potpourri around the world for decades. More power to what is essentially a Made in India product.

So why, then, does widespread annoyance still persist, especially among those resident in Delhi, over this event?

Can it be the usual knee-jerk reaction of our urban, western-educated chatterati against anything even remotely ‘Hindu’? No.

Why, even the Congress – usually the instigator of that familiar patellar twitch – is relatively silent, at least on that score, preferring to point to the larger issue of potential damage to Delhi’s already dying lifeline, the Yamuna, on whose floodplains a gigantic tent city of carpets, gilded domes, chabootras and papier mache elephants has sprung up overnight (after chopping trees, razing vegetable crops grown by poor, subsistence farmers on rented pattas and dangerously compacting 1000 acres of floodplain earth) instead.

“There is a disconnect,” Congress MP Shashi Tharoor explains. “Between the sad state of the Yamuna and the organization of an event on its bed that causes such environmental damage, indeed devastation.”

(Of course the same Congress under Delhi’s Sheila Dixit government thought nothing of building the swank CWG housing complex or the DTC bus depot on the Yamuna floodplains many years ago, but that’s another matter)

Is it the damage to the river bank that is bothering us then? Hardly.

There is not a single Indian who is not aware of the limitless and perhaps irreversible – savagery we have committed upon all our rivers, especially the holiest Ganga and Yamuna, over -at least – the 100 years of rapid industrialization. The Yamuna continues to be the dumping stream for animal carcasses, industrial effluents, disease-carrying hospital wastes, bio-degradable plastic, fibre-glass, E-Waste, PVC religious statues and toxic chemical byproducts. Indeed, the countless ‘Action Plans’ drawn up by various governments too, have seemingly floated to the bottom of the river bed, along with other garbage.

So what is it then, that is leaving this bitter taste in Indian mouths about this event? The order of the NCT itself? After all, that would be in keeping with the current fashion of trashing and disrespecting judicial verdicts.

Not even that. For good or bad, the order has been passed and the event will go ahead. Noam Chomsky, Amartya Sen and Arundhati Roy have not put down their contempt for our courts in writing. (Yet).

The World Culture Festival has annoyed millions of ordinary Indians and given the AoL’s otherwise impeccable reputation a bad name for a simple but very familiar reason : the audacity of privilege. AoL’s incomplete application for permission has received extraordinary, kid-gloved treatment and handling at the hands of all the authorities it has passed through.

Be it the Congress, the AAP or the BJP, each and every party vows to put an end to ‘VIP culture’. The proverbial old man in the dhoti and calloused feet, fighting for 20 years in a lower court to get his pension, has repeatedly fallen for that assurance and voted for whoever promised that relief.

But the silken-smooth facilitation of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s soiree by at least one concerned body, the Delhi Development Authority (and therewith the Ministry of Urban Development to which it reports) with no questions asked, the instruction to the army to build bridges for what is essentially a private party and the stentorian orders issued to Delhi Police to ensure security to it, all prove that VIP privileges are well and alive even 70 years after Independence.

Irrespective of the BJP’s energetically- publicized ‘Swachch Bharat’ and ‘Clean Ganga’ campaigns, the menace of sand mining and indiscriminate construction on river banks all over the country and despite AoL withholding relevant information and bypassing several of the listed procedures to get permission for the event, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s shindig has been cleared by notoriously-slothful sarkari employees (whose tardiness towards ordinary petiitioners is legendary) with breathtaking speed.

Of course it doesn’t take a degree in public administration to know why. For one, because Prime Minister Narendra Modi and almost all senior members of his cabinet will be in attendance. And secondly, because Sri Sri Ravi Shankar seems to have indeed become the BJP’s ‘in-house guru’, as a Congress supporter points out.

Bribes may not have been paid, rules may not have been bent (as nebulous as they are and as stupidly spread over more than a dozen different authorities). Yet, all Indians intuitively know that that the bigger the ticket, the faster even the toughest of clearances.

If there is one thing to criticize about the NGT: it is its permission for the event to take place in the nth minute, despite agreeing with virtually every criticism proffered by the petitioners in its verdict.

Last year, a private event featuring one of the biggest comedy stars in the world, Jerry Seinfeld received permission and then was denied it just two days before the show at the NSCI grounds in Mumbai on flimsy grounds, causing massive losses. But then, what’s a small, 70-man Mumbai entertainment company compared to the mighty Sri Sri Ravi Shankar?

The fast-tracking of VIP demands is so deeply entrenched in our system that Sri Sri’s event has unwittingly brought about a surprising – if temporary – unity between urban liberals and BJP-voting centrists – who usually abuse each other as ‘bleeding-hearts’ and ‘chaddiwallahs’ respectively. For once, everyone is left gasping at the audacity of what Sri Sri has pulled off only because of his reported ‘closeness’ to the establishment.

“When I needed 3 acres of river bed to mount a small Yamuna-Elbe art project jointly sponsored by the governments of India and Germany some years ago, it took me an entire year to get clearance,” says environmental activist Ravi Agarwal. “Yet, here are 1000 acres sanctioned within days.Is this for real?”

Agarwal’s Toxics Link is part of the consortium which petitioned the NGT against the World Culture Festival. He vehemently disputes the criticism that they waited too long to do so, pointing out that it is the usual norm to approach the organizers, in this case AoL, before going to a tribunal. “It is also a question of courtesy since after all, AoL has indeed been doing some admirable social service in so many areas”.

Beginning in October 2015, the petitioners wrote to Sri Sri, PM Modi, the Lieutenant-Governor of Delhi and DDA, pleading with them to reconsider the chosen venue for the event. There was no response. Even the media was informed but remained disinterested, says Agarwal. That is, till the NGT sat up and took notice just weeks before the event. “The fact that this event is taking place only proves the clout that the AoL enjoys in the corridors of power and – an utter disdain for the environment on part of both the central and state government,” says the disgusted activist.

But surely those who support the event as a great idea to “showcase India” are not wrong in pointing out that hardly any damage is likely to be wrought to the river by an event that will last only three days?

“Several studies have shown the flood plain to be a major water recharge area and home to much bio-diversity,” counters Agarwal. “This fact has been ignored. It also shows a lack of knowledge on part of AoL on the specifications of the Yamuna’s floodplains. How can they naively say they will ‘restore it’, when they don’t know what has been destroyed in the first place? Please refer to INTACH and Professor Vikram Soni, a well-known physicist and IIT alumnus. They have researched groundwater contamination on the riverfront. We at Toxics Link have conducted toxicity studies on the river water. Chemicals like paints and cleaning agents that have been used at the site of this grand jamboree, are going to make that worse. Also please don’t forget, the event may end on Monday, but the entire activity of building and dismantling the humongous construction will have totaled months.”

So who’s coming to this expensive jamboree which AoL says vaguely (and irrespective of laws stating that charitable organizations must make their sources of income known) is ‘funded by the people, for the people?” And what does AoL think it will achieve by hosting it?

Apart from a plethora of ‘world musicians and dancers’, there’s, well, Charlie Rose, TV talk show host. Then, the deputy commander of the Fijian Army (from a country that has been under military rule since 2014). There are representatives of the Andean Parliament, one of whom helped decontaminate a local lake and a basin. The list is also studded with lots of loyal supporters of PM Modi like Subhash Thakrar of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who told the BBC way back in 2013 that if (Modi) ‘is a prospective prime minister, then we need to make sure that he is well connected with us before other countries do it.” Once fined heavily for its role as auditors for Satyam computers during the scandal involving the latter in 2009, PriceWaterHouse Cooper will be represented too. Mysteriously, so will Germany’s football world: through a former manager who admitted to using cocaine in 2002 and was later dismissed as trainer of a Turkish football team in 2014. Banks abound – from the World Bank (mysteriously listed in bold as a ‘Strategic Partner’ and deliberately left unexplained by AoL’s spokesman upon FirstPost’s queries) to the commercial Doha Bank to our very own Yes Bank. There are plenty of policy wonks and equally mystifyingly, a great number of experts in’ cyber-security’. There are also Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena and its erstwhile foreign minister Prof GL Peiris, who is currently locked in combat with Sirisena over implementing a trade agreement with India that Peiris’s own government had enthusiastically pursued when former President Rajapaksa was in power. And then there are the usual suspects from Pakistan, always a fixture at any private Indian event which professes to aim at ‘global peace’. Like Pakistani senate member Sherry Rahman who once shuddered on camera about how ‘ugly Indian male politicians’ were. She will have to grin and bear a whole host of them for the coming three days, since practically the entire top-rung (and not so shabby-looking) Modi cabinet will be in attendance.

Unfortunately for Sherry Rahman, there is not a single speaker from the oppositional Congress, not even the extremely erudite and photogenic Jyotiraditya Scindia and Shashi Tharoor. (Global unity and world peace must surely begin at home? Is that possible by excluding the country’s oldest political party altogether ? And surely the best way of proving the BJP’s influence over the organizers?)

“I received an invitation,” says Tharoor. “But as a guest, not as a speaker.”

Finally, let’s ask ourselves what the cultural festival and the ‘leadership summit’ are going to achieve. After all, Woodstock came and went, so did George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh. They neither guaranteed the end of conflicts, nor did they prevent starvation deaths in sub-Saharan Africa.

Will Sri Sri’s Big Bash ensure “world peace”, ‘ethical business’ and ‘universal brotherhood’, at least over the weekend?

Will UK PM David Cameron’s message of ‘peace, harmony and understanding between people of different faiths’ to the Festival guarantee that his country will stop arming Saudi Arabia to continue its bombing of Yemen?

Will the ‘angelic’ Coalition of the Willing – each country of which is represented at the Big Bash on the banks of the Yamuna – stop bombing Syria and Iraq?

Will African internecine wars miraculously cease? Will the ISIS go down on its knees, accept handcuffs and say they are sorry?

Will Al-Qaida and Boko Haram lay down arms and offer red roses?

Will the endless motormouths within the BJP radical fringe, who constantly undercut the achievements of the party leadership through their mindless statements, sew their mouths in contrition ?

Will a contrite Vijay Mallya fly back on Economy to pay Kingfisher employees their dues with interest?

The only person qualified to answer that is the man who after a long and distinguished career as an international diplomat, almost became the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

“There can’t be a co-relation between any such extravaganza and world peace, except to the tangential extent of increasing consciousness on the part of the delegates,” says Shashi Tharoor. “Violators of global peace don’t attend such festivals.”

The author is the former South Asia bureau chief of Der Spiegel.

Tarique Anwar contributed to this story.

World Culture Festival has damaged Yamuna floodplain, at least Rs 120 crore needed to restore it: Expert panel tells NGT

New Delhi: A four-member expert committee set up by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to inspect the site on the Yamuna flood plain where the World Culture Festival is being organised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living Foundation, has said it would require at least Rs 120 crore to restore the area to its original state.

The committee, in its report submitted to the green panel on 21 February, had stated that the area has been cleared of all natural vegetation and the event would leave a “permanent footprint” on the floodplains of the Yamuna.

“The site has been cleared of all natural vegetation and consolidated with machinery. It appears that the site has been raised with the help of JCBs (mechanical excavators). A gigantic stage made of steel rods is under preparation. A huge amount of debris and construction waste has been dumped into the Yamuna main channel,” said the report.

Preparations ahead of the World Culture Festival. Firstpost/Tarique AnwarPreparations ahead of the World Culture Festival. Firstpost/Tarique Anwar

Preparations ahead of the World Culture Festival. Firstpost/Tarique Anwar

The expert committee was headed by Water Resources Secretary Shashim Shekhar. He was assisted by Prof AK Gosain of IIT-Delhi, Prof CR Babu and Prof Brij Gopal.

“Not just the Yamuna flood plains, but the flood plains of all the major rivers are ecologically senitive areas. In the first place, the organisers should not have selected the site. They should have gone to Jawaharlal Nehru stadim,” Professor Babu told IANS.

“They have levelled and flattened the plains. Because of this the the plains have got compacted. Today (Wednesday) there was rain, but there will be no recharging of water into the groundwater. The rain water should have gone to the groundwater, but since the plains got compacted, it wouldn’t,” he added.

According to Babu, it would require at least Rs 120 crore to restore the Yamuna flood plains in its original position.

“During the preparation for event, they have damaged the wetlands, the aquatic plants and flora and fauna. The flora and fauna in the wetlands can also make sewage water clean but it has been damaged,” he said.

“According to the norms, no activities should take place within 100 metres from the water course. But they have violated that too,” he added.

Babu further said: “The damage has already been done. There was no point stopping the event at the last moment. So, we recommended NGT to slap a fine of at least Rs.120 crore on AoL for restoration work and ask them to convert the place into a biodiversity park.”

IANS

Need one month to pay Rs 5 crore fine: Art of Living Foundation tells National Green Tribunal

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living (AOL) foundation told the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Friday that it needed a month’s time to pay the Rs five-crore penalty as it was a charitable organisation. It also asked that the Rs 5 crore fine be taken as restoration amount for biodiversity park and not as penalty.However, the NGT expressed its displeasure over the spiritual guru’s statement that he “would go to prison but not pay the fine” and said such a statement was not expected from a person with such high stature.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sri Sri Ravi Shankar had earlier said that he would rather go to jail than pay the fine imposed by NGT for environmental violations on the floodplains due to massive constructions. He had also said that AOL was not “satisfied” with the verdict of the NGT and would appeal against it.The NGT also asked the Centre and AOL if the Rs 2.5 crore grant has been released to the foundation by the Culture ministry. It also pulled up the Ministry of Water Resources for not doing anything to protect Yamuna from pollution despite directions.NGT also issued a show cause notice for contempt proceedings to a member of Ojaswi party for disturbing court hearing. It asked him to leave the courtroom.The National Green Tribunal on Wednesday cleared the three-day festival on the Yamuna floodplains but rebuked the organisers and the government for failing to take enough precaution to protect the venue’s ecosystem.Meanwhile, the activists are demanding a ban on the event saying that construction at the venue has been allowed without any risk assessment to the environment.The government, however, earlier in the day attempted to downplay the controversy with regard to the event.Asserting that the World Culture Festival will bring glory to India, Union Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said the event must not be politicised as it celebrates diversity.”World Culture Festival by Art of Living will bring glory to India. Let’s not politicise this. 36,000 artists participating in one event is in itself a record. It’s a cultural event 2 celebrate diversity. Let’s celebrate & join d festival,” Naidu said in a series of tweets.Sri Sri Ravi Shankar had yesterday confirmed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be attending the three-day ‘World Culture Festival’ being organised by the Art of Living Foundation beginning today.Talking to ANI, he said that Prime Minister Modi would be attending the event and added that he has received a letter from President Pranab Mukherjee wishing good luck.

World Culture Festival: Sri Sri should be thanked for drawing national attention on river Yamuna’s sorry state

It is only during the later part of rainy season when huge amounts of water is released from UP that one is reminded of river Yamuna that flows past Delhi. The only other time its existence is discussed is when Poorvanchali social cultural organisations, with some support from Delhi government, does some cosmetic cleaning. They put up tents and such other facilities for Chatt Puja.

For the rest of the year, Yamuna in Delhi is a big chocking drain. No one cares about the pollution. There have been no visible exercise to clean the river, either by the self-proclaimed environmentalists or by the government.

Waste being dumped in the Yamuna river. File photo. AFPWaste being dumped in the Yamuna river. File photo. AFP

Waste being dumped in the Yamuna river. File photo. AFP

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar should be thanked for inviting the nation’s attention to river Yamuna and its pollution, discussions on which have rarely come up.
The spiritual guru should also be complimented for making Arvind Kejriwal forget his differences with Narendra Modi government at the centre, or vice-versa, and for making them work in close coordination. That’s a welcome development, even if the truce is temporary. At least a new beginning has been made.

The spiritual guru’s decision to hold a three-day long ‘World Culture Festival’ between 11-13 March and make the venue on the Yamuna river bank (officially part of Mayur Vihar Phase-I) seem fit for staging the Olympic Games hasn’t gone down well with environmentalists, media, ordinary denizens or the National Green Tribunal.

Sri Sri is an international celebrity. After all, it’s not within the competence of an ordinary mortal to organise an event of this scale — a dais spread over acres, a makeshift stadium bigger than the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, six pontoon bridges over Yamuna (for which he got help from the army) so that VVIPs including the Prime Minister may reach the venue, half a dozen clearances from various government agencies. His arrangements include provision for an estimated 35 lakh people who will be at the festival and participants from 155 countries.

An event of this scale organised by someone who is perceived to be close to Modi and the ruling BJP would obviously make big news.

Critics are well within their rights to criticise the use of army for building one pontoon bridge and erecting temporary structures beyond the permitted area.

But the obsessive focus on the environmental aspect, degradation of Yamuna ecology and its bio-diversity is a bit rich.

It is not as if Sri Sri’s event has destroyed the pristine precincts of Yamuna. It’s not as if hordes of tourists frequent the river banks for its flora and fauna. Truth is, these are among the most polluted sites of the country and until the Art of Living foundation decided to organise the event, no one gave even the slightest attention to it.

Consider the current state of Yamuna — the air conditioning systems of Delhi Metro coaches which cross the Yamuna every day and those that are parked at the banks suffer severe damage due to toxic gases produced by a heavily polluted Yamuna.

My colleague Tarique Anwar in Firstpost, quoting Delhi Metro officials and experts, reported how not just rail coaches but the AC units in residential and commercial complexes around Yamuna too are badly affected, so are the respiratory system of those living in close vicinity of the river. “There is no oxygen in the Yamuna, just sewage. Toxic fumes, including ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, emanating from the polluted water corrodes metals,” DD Basu, senior scientist, Central Pollution Control Board was quoted as saying in the report.

“The toxic gases damage the coating on the condenser joints of the AC system, which in turn causes leakage of coolant gas,” said DMRC director (operations) Rajkumar.
“Condenser systems of 350 coaches on lines 3 (Dwarka-Noida City Centre) and 4 (Yamuna Bank-Vaishali) and of 100 out of 200 coaches on line 1 (Dilshad Garden-Rithala) have been replaced”, Rajkumar was quoted, as saying.

Yamuna has six bridges over it connecting east Delhi and Noida to central Delhi, two rail bridges and one metro bridge. The number is only going to increase. Each such construction obviously has its own side effect.

From Wazirabad in north-east where Yamuna enters Delhi to Okhla in south where Delhi’s boundary ends, 15 main drains enter Yamuna, all to pollute it even further.
Drive down any of these bridges and the extent of unauthorised constructions — both semi-pucca and pucca — would be visible to anyone. No environmentalist has ever raised their voice so far.

The entire Commonwealth Games village was built over the river bed. No hue and cry was made about it; at least no one remembers whether it made non-stop live TV coverage or newspaper banner headlines.

Taking on Ravi Shankar and the proposed World Cultural Festival is the easiest route to big publicity. Taking on a Suresh Kalmadhi or a MS Gill (for constructing Commonwealth games villages) obviously didn’t make much political sense. Akshardham Temple, too, is built on the river bed, a destination which has helped Delhi enhance its pride.
Beyond the obvious attempts at political point-scoring, if there are any environmental concerns to be raised, it should be addressed by competent authorities after the event is over. If it is found that Sri Sri’s event did everlasting damage, he and his foundation should face corrective and penal action.

The environmentalists should also list out what of flora and fauna, marine life is being destroyed by the event. It’s not clear whether the festival will cause any permanent damage to the soil. Proof of that or even a substantive argument is missing so far.

Sri Sri extravaganza: SC refuses to entertain plea to stop World Culture Festival

The Supreme Court refused to entertain a plea seeking its direction to stop the three-day mega event, World Culture Festival, at the banks of Yamuna river being organised by the Art Of Living Foundation (AOL) of spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. A bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur asked the petitioner Bhartiya Kishan Majdoor Samiti to approach the National Green Tribunal (NGT) with its plea as the three-day event is all set to begin tomorrow. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”This preparation is going on for a long time. Why have you come now? Why don’t you go to the NGT,” the bench said. The bench also raised apprehension on the motive of filing such a petition at the eleventh hour, saying, “So you seek publicity out of it?” The petition alleged that no requisite permissions have been granted by various authorities concerned to this proposed event.The NGT yesterday expressed its helplessness in banning the event, saying it was “fait accompli”.Nevertheless, it imposed a fine of Rs five crores on AOL as environmental compensation after coming down heavily on the foundation for not disclosing its full plans and also on the DDA and Environment Ministry for their role.The green tribunal, which found several environmental violations committed by the organisers, blamed the delay on the part of environmental activists in raising the issue before it which compelled it to grant permission for event.The NGT clearance came on a day the Delhi High Court described the event, from whose valedictory function the President has already pulled out, as a “disaster” from the ecological point of view.

Parliament Live: Previous government has destroyed IB, RAW, says BJP raising Ishrat Jahan storm in Lok Sabha

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The NGT on Tuesday questioned the Centre as to why no environmental clearance is needed for constructing temporary structures on Yamuna plains as building of pontoon bridge by army for cultural festival comes under the scanner of NGT. This was during a hearing on pleas seeking the cancellation of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living three-day ‘World Culture Festival’ on the Yamuna flood plains to celebrate 35 years of the foundation.

A bench headed by NGT chairperson Swatanter Kumar heard the matter in which the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), Uttar Pradesh and Delhi government made their submissions with regard to grant of permission to the festival.

On 3 March, DDA had submitted that it had granted conditional permission for organising the event and had no idea about the magnitude of the programme. The event later drew criticism after some activists petitioned the NGT, a quasi-judicial body on environmental issues, asking it to stop the event as it would have a deep impact on the Yamuna flood plains.

The DDA backed its decision to grant permission for the festival, while the Art of Living said it has fulfilled all conditions and taken requisite permissions for the event.
“We’ll leave it as a beautiful bio-diversity park. As per my knowledge, not even a single tree has been cut down, we’ve only trimmed four trees. We want the Yamuna to be clean. We will not pollute the environment. We haven’t cut a single tree,” said Sri Sri Ravi Shankar reacting to the criticism over army men construction the pontoon bridge, reports DNA.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in a file photo. AFPSri Sri Ravi Shankar in a file photo. AFP

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in a file photo. AFP

Meanwhile, a source close to Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar told IANS said the Indian Army’s decision to make pontoon bridges for the upcoming event was taken after Delhi Police expressed a fear of stampede at the venue, where around 30 lakh people are expected.

The source also said the Art of Living Foundation may not be charged for the bridges as there is no policy in place for it.

The defence minister has, however, directed the defence secretary to formulate a policy for the army’s involvement in such events in future.

Earlier on Monday, President Pranab Mukherjee decided to pull out of a cultural extravaganza being organised by Art of Living guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar as a controversy raged over the event.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to inaugurate the event on Friday and the President was to attend the valedictory function on Sunday.

“The President cannot attend the function due to unavoidable circumstances,” an official of the Rashtrapati Bhavan said on Monday.

The NGT will resume its hearing on Wenesday on holding of the festival.

The AOL Foundation expects 35 lakh people to attend the function, concerns have been raised by experts about the likely damage to the environment that may be caused by holding it on the flood plains of the already polluted river in east Delhi.

The AOL foundation, which is organising the function, will have yoga and meditation sessions, peace prayers by Sanskrit scholars and traditional cultural performances from around the world.
The three-day event will be held from 11-13 March.
With inputs from agencies

Despite ‘unstable’ stage Narendra Modi likely to attend Art of Living event

Even as the NGT asked Art of Living Foundation to fork out Rs.5 crore for damaging Yamuna floodplains, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will go ahead his commitment to inaugurate the NGO’s mega-event to mark their 35th anniversary. On Tuesday, the Special Protection Group, the elite force in-charge of the PM’s security had warned that the venue is not safe.Delhi Police had approached the SPG citing several security concerns, including no safety certification to the huge stage built at the site and no way to escort out the prime minister in case of any stampede or fire. In fact, on Wednesday, the counsel for Delhi government informed the NGT that the Central Public Works Department had deemed the 40-feet stage at the event’s venue to be structurally unstable.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sources said Modi has, however, given his commitment to the Art of Living guru and so he is exploring other ways to be part of the grand show. He is exploring two options: One to address the gathering on the Yamuna banks from atop a stage to be quickly built on the nearby DND flyover or to resort to video-conferencing to inaugurate it. The counsel for Art of Living informed the NGT on Wednesday that they are considering an alternative of building an altogether new stage for the 16 dignitaries, including the PM, that will be seated on the grand dais.Delhi Police has not yet given security clearance for the event. Sources said the police is not satisfied with just two temporary pontoon bridges not enough for evacuation in case of any stampede.

NGT slaps Rs 5 crore fine on Art of Living; PM Modi likely to attend event

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will go ahead his commitment to inaugurate the NGO’s mega-event to mark their 35th anniversary. He is exploring two options: One to address the gathering on the Yamuna banks from atop a stage to be quickly built on the nearby DND flyover or to resort to video-conferencing to inaugurate it. The counsel for Art of Living informed the NGT on Wednesday that they are considering an alternative of building an altogether new stage for the 16 dignitaries, including the PM, that will be seated on the grand dais. Delhi Police has not yet given security clearance for the event. Sources said the police is not satisfied with just two temporary pontoon bridges not enough for evacuation in case of any stampede.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On Tuesday, the Special Protection Group, the elite force in-charge of the PM’s security had warned that the venue is not safe.Delhi Police had approached the SPG citing several security concerns, including no safety certification to the huge stage built at the site and no way to escort out the prime minister in case of any stampede or fire. In fact, on Wednesday, the counsel for Delhi government informed the NGT that the Central Public Works Department had deemed the 40-feet stage at the event’s venue to be structurally unstable.Notwithstanding the raging row over environmental damage due to the 3-day festival, National Green Tribunal gave its go ahead to the event to be held on the Yamuna floodplains from March 11, expressing its helplessness in banning it because of “fait accompli”. Nevertheless, it imposed a fine of Rs five crore on AOL as environmental compensation after coming down heavily on the foundation for not disclosing its full plans. The green bench also criticised the DDA and Environment Ministry for their role.

Sri Sri’s event – No environment clearances required for temporary events: Govt

With the National Green Tribunal clearing the decks for a three-day cultural extravaganza of Art of Living Foundation on the flood plains of Yamuna river, the Centre on Wednesday said such temporary programmes or structures “do not” require environment clearances. “NGT has given permission to them. We had already clarified to NGT that these kinds of programmes and temporary structures do not require environmental clearances under the environmental law and environment notification,” Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadedar said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amid a raging row over environmental degradation, the green body today cleared the decks for the cultural event scheduled to begin from March 11, but imposed a fine of Rs 5 crore on AOL as environmental compensation. After posing tough questions, the tribunal also slapped fine of Rs five lakh on Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and Rs one lakh on Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) for not discharging statutory functions.The tribunal’s order came on the pleas by NGOs and environmentalists who had sought cancellation of the festival, saying it would seriously endanger the fragile ecosystem on the riverbed. More than 35 lakh people are expected to arrive at the ‘World Cultural Festival’.

Soldiers building bridge for Art of Living festival ‘shameful, rotten’, say military veterans

Military veterans are slamming the use of Indian Army soldiers for building bridges over the river Yamuna to please a godman as “illegal”, “shameful” and a “rot in governance.” CNN IBN reports of a terror threat at the venue and The Indian Express says Delhi Police has warned of “pandemonium.” The Indian Army on its toes for a godman? Really?!

Around 4:30 am Wednesday IST, Delhi resident Vimlendu Jha, who has opposed the event, posted a video on his Facebook page where a Hindu Mahasabha leader with a flowing beard and dressed in an orange kurta is threatening to kill Jha, calls him a CIA agent and also anti-national, dragging the #JNURow pet phrases across the Yamuna.

Links: World Culture Festival website

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said that Army soldiers’ deployment for construction of pontoon bridges over Yamuna river for the controversial three-day ‘World Culture Festival’ being organised by Goodman Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living Foundation is to ensure safety but Delhi’s cops have drilled a hole into that argument. The Indian Express reports that Delhi Police has written to the Urban Development Ministry warning of “utter chaos and pandemonium.”

Parrikar said the decision to employ soldiers for the construction of the bridges was taken to ensure there is no law and order situation and security threat to lakhs of people expected to attend the three-day event starting from Friday.

 Former military officials reject the explanations given by the minister arguing that that defence forces are meant for protecting country from external security threats.

Sri Sri Ravishankar. Image courtesy: FacebookSri Sri Ravishankar. Image courtesy: Facebook

Sri Sri Ravishankar. Image courtesy: Facebook

“Sending 120 soldiers of the Army to Yamuna floodplains to build bridges for a private cultural extravaganza is absolutely wrong and illegal. The provision of the Army in aid of civil authority is governed by Section 130 of the CrPC (Criminal Procedure Code). This legal clause states that decision to requisition armed forces should be taken by the ‘executive magistrate of the highest rank’, which is the district magistrate, not even the chief minister. And he or she can do it under emergency circumstances such as riots and natural calamities when his or her police force cannot do a particular job,” former IAS officer MG Devasahayam, who has served a stint in the Army, told Firstpost.

It is alarming, he said, that the government is going out of its way to help a controversial programme, which organisers claim will be attended by 3.5 million people, which may cause permanent environmental damage. 

“The event has come under scanner of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which looks after environmental issues. Even the President, the supreme commander of the defence forces, who was to preside over the valedictory function, has refused to attend it. In such a situation, facilitation of such programme is a sign of rotten governance that is going on in the country,” he added.

The president had earlier agreed to attend the opening ceremony on 11 March but later opted out. Prime Minister Narendra Modi may also not take part in the event on the pretext of “security threat”.

Asked when the Army has been used during Kumbh Mela and even the Commonwealth Games, then why such a hue and cry this time, Major General (retired) Satbir Singh said the defence forces have got a clear cut task to defend the country from external and internal security threats. They are also called to aid the civil authorities in case of natural disasters.

“Our soldiers are not meant for such shit. It is a compromise with the dignity of the country’s defence forces. It is a shame that the government is giving undeserved public resources to an individual in return of his political support,” he added. 

Colonel (retired) Pushpendra Singh also strongly condemned the decision and said that the “Army should not be deployed for any such function. It is meant to secure borders”.

Meanwhile, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) defended its permission to the event before an NGT bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar. “Heavens will not fall if the function is organised at the venue. We can see what needs to be done to restore the area, but today we are at the threshold of the ceremony,” the DDA is reported to have told the NGT.

As he faced criticism for destroying Yamuna, Art of Living chief Sri Sri Ravi Shankar sought to placate fears. “I want Yamuna to be clean. We have not cut any tree, some trees have been trimmed only,” he said, adding that his foundation will leave the spot as “a beautiful bio-diversity park”.

On Monday, as pictures of soldiers working on the Yamuna bridge for the event began to circulate, President and Supreme Commander of the Army, Pranab Mukherjee, said he will not attend the World Culture Festival.

An online campaign entitled ‘Don’t destroy the #Yamuna Floodplains – Shift the Art of Living Festival’ on Change.org has so far got 19,545 signatures. The signed petition, which says, “Sri Sri, please stop killing my already dead Yamuna, I beg! Destroying the floodplains is not ‘cultural’, not ‘spiritual’”, will be sent to the president, the prime minister, the chief justice of India, the chairman of the NGT, the chief minister of Delhi and the Art of Living Foundation.

In its journey of 1376 km from Yamunotri to Allahabad, 22 km of river Yamuna flows through Delhi. Ironically, this journey of 22 km through the most powerful city of the nation is primarily responsible for choking the river. What enters the city as a revered river unfortunately exits as a drain, a dead water body. Amidst this chaotic ecosystem, floodplains come forth as the only hope for survival of the river.

“As the integral part of the aquatic system of any river, floodplains are the natural space for the river to dissipate its energy. A river with vulnerable and damaged floodplains is one step closer to death, to say the least, it adds,” reads the petition.

Unfortunately, the floodplains of Yamuna in Delhi have already been injured with mega constructions. Akshardham temple, Delhi Transport Corporation’s Depot, Common Wealth Games Village, main office of the Delhi Metro, to name a few, are technically on the floodplains of the Yamuna.

These constructions, however, stand proud and tall despite the NGT orders that restrain any construction, be it temporary or permanent, on the floodplain of the river Yamuna in Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. It is Zone O, which means its ecologically sensitive zone and therefore no construction should be allowed in this area.

While the river struggles to flow, preparations are in full swing to organise the mega event on the floodplains. The event venue is spread over 1,000 acres of floodplain. The area is within 10 km of the Okhla Birds Sanctuary.

(With FP Staff)

Why did you not consider the event’s environment impact?

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Tuesday came down heavily on Union environment ministry, Union water resources ministry, the Delhi Development Authority, Uttar Pradesh government and even the Art of Living Foundation and asked if either of them “considered the impact of the (Art of Living) event on the River Yamuna’s environment, its floodplains or its biodiversity as it is not for just a few hours.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It asked the environment ministry and the water resources ministry if “it was not their responsibility to protect the fragile ecosystem of the River Yamuna.”During Tuesday’s hearing, Art of Living began its final arguments in the case and the NGT chairperson Swatanter Kumar posed a series of uncomfortable questions to the NGO’s counsel. “Details in your application to the DDA were ambiguous and incomplete. You did not disclose the scale of the preparations,” Kumar said. While in all advertising material, AOL has publicized that 3.5 million people are going to attend the event, during the hearing they their counsel said that at any given point of time 3 lakh people will be present at the venue.The NGO also came under fire for using iron scaffolding to erect stage 30-feet tall as this was contrary to the DDA’s approval that had asked the NGO to only use eco-friendly material. The NGO’s counsel defended the decision arguing that the scaffolding was not dug into the ground. This prompted the chairperson to say, “It doesn’t stand to reason that a 30-feet tall structure can stand without holding on the ground. How is this eco-friendly structure?”The four-member chairperson bench headed by justice Swatanter Kumar was hearing the final arguments on Tuesday in an on-going matter against global NGO Art of Living Foundation. Delhi-based NGO Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan has alleged that Art of Living’s three-day mega-event on Yamuna’s floodplains will permanently damage its fragile ecology. Besides, a four-member expert body of the NGT has already recommended that a fine of Rs.120 crore should be slapped against Art of Living Foundation for causing severe and extensive damage to the floodplains.The NGO has erected a stage spanning more than two acres, built pontoon bridges on the river with the help of the Army and visitors will be allowed to park on the river’s floodplains. The tribunal is likely to announce its verdict on Wednesday.

World Culture Festival: Why no clearance required for temporary structures, Green Tribunal asks Centre

New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal on Tuesday questioned the Centre as to why no environmental clearance is required for erecting structures in Yamuna Flood plains for Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living three-day ‘World Culture Festival’.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. AFPSri Sri Ravi Shankar. AFP

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. AFP

“You (MoEF) file an affidavit by tomorrow and tell us why no environmental clearance is needed for raising temporary structures in flood plains,” a Bench headed by NGT chairperson Swantanter Kumar said.

The direction came after counsel appearing for Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) said they have found no debris at the site, when an expert team had visited and as per Environment Impact Assessment notification 2006, and no environment clearance is needed for temporary structures.

The Green Panel also questioned the building up of a pontoon bridge by the Army on the Yamuna for the festival, and asked the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) counsel as who gave the permission for setting it up.

The DDA, Delhi government and MoEF said they have no relation with the grant of permission for setting up the pontoon bridge.

While the DDA said it was only required to give a no objection certificate for the bridge, Delhi government submitted that its role for the pontoon bridge comes only at the time of flood. The MoEF passed the buck to the Ministry of Water Resources.

Appearing for the DDA, Advocate Rajiv Bansal backed the authority’s decision to grant permission for the event saying it has given the nod with conditions that no permanent construction will be permitted without permission from the competent authority.

“The area is meant for recreational activity. The area is with DDA and it is the competent authority. Permission was granted after taking proper legal opinion which was conditional that no permanent structure will be constructed and also that it will be subject to permissions from other concerned authorities,” he said.

Art of Living (AOL) in its submission said that it had taken the requisite permissions from all the authorities except from the police which is subject to permission from fire department and they have fulfilled all the conditions.

The bench adjourned the matter for tomorrow. The NGT is hearing pleas seeking stoppage of ongoing construction on the flood plains for the Cultural festival.

During the hearing, DDA said that the plea seeking stay of construction activity was filed with a delay after activity had started at the site and it needs to be dismissed.
It said that constant watch is being maintained that no debris or municipal waste is being dumped in Yamuna flood plains and a running contractor is there to remove the debris, if any dumped.

The bench then said that DDA just can’t wash its hand off by saying no debris is there as the photographs on record does show the presence of waste at the site.
“In October, November and December, till the time we handed over the site to the organizers, there was no debris at the site. We are telling this with utmost responsibility that there was no debris,” Bansal said.

DDA said that it had granted permission for 24.44 hectare for holding of the event in which 3.5 lakh to 5 lakh people are likely to participate and has till now not found any violations of its conditions by organizers of the event.

The bench asked the Uttar Pradesh government that under what authority of law was the parking area allotted, does the parking area fall under flood plains area, does the area permitted has been exceeded by the organizers and how much money been spent to clear the debris from the allotted area.

Counsel appearing for Uttar Pradesh government said that no debris was found at the allotted area, so there is no question of money being spent. The counsel further said that permission was granted as per the notification in which flood plains could be allotted for parking purposes during non-monsoon seasons so that there is no damage to environment and no permanent structures could be constructed. The bench, asked the counsel whether thousands of cars releasing emissions will not cause pollution to the environment.

It asked all the parties to consider the impact of the such a event on the environment, river, ecology and biodiversity. “Assuming that all necessary permissions were taken for the event but has anybody considered what the impact will be on the environment, river, ecology and biodiversity. Has any study being conducted in this regard,” the bench said. It also asked the AOL, whether it has carried out any Environment Impact Assessment study of the event and how had it satisfied the DDA to grant permission for the function.

PTI

Sri Sri extravaganza: Environmentalists pose tough questions, suspense looms over event’s fate

Suspense mounted on Tuesday over the fate of the controversial three-day cultural extravaganza on the Yamuna flood plains with the National Green Tribunal posing tough questions on the event over which environmentalists have raised a banner of revolt.ICC World Twenty20 2016: Afghanistan vs Scotland, Group B 2nd T20 Match Live Cricket Scores & Ball by Ball commentaryWhile President Pranab Mukherjee pulled out of attending the valedictory function on Sunday, speculation raged on Tuesday over whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the event on Friday.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Facing criticism, Art of Living Foundation chief Sri Sri Ravi Shankar rubbished allegations of any damage to ecology saying no tree has been felled and that they would build a biodiversity park in the area.Amid concerns over security in the wake of fresh terror threats, the Home Ministry has directed Delhi Police to take all possible steps to ensure peace during the event and to ensure that no stampede-like situation arises.All eyes were on the proceedings before the National Green Tribunal which questioned the Centre as to why no environmental clearance is required for erecting structures on the Yamuna plains for the event.”You (MoEF) file an affidavit by tomorrow and tell us why no environmental clearance is needed for raising temporary structures on flood plains,” a bench headed by NGT chairperson Swantanter Kumar said.The direction came after the counsel appearing for Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) said that they have found no debris at the site when an expert team had visited and as per Environment Impact Assessment notification 2006, no environment clearance is needed for temporary structures.The green panel also questioned the building of pontoon bridge by the army on the river bed for the festival and asked the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) counsel as to who gave the permission for setting it up. DDA, Delhi government, MoEF said that they have no role in the grant of permission for setting up the pontoon bridge.The NGT said it will pronounce its order tomorrow.

World Culture Festival: Why Art of Living won’t have it easy explaining its stand to NGT

Whether Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living (AOL) Foundation eventually succeeds in holding its ambitious World Culture Festival (WCF) 2016 on the floodplains of river Yamuna in Delhi is debatable, but one thing is certain: it’ll not find it easy to explain its position to the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

It’s the NGT that recommended a fine of Rs 120 crore on AOL Foundation for causing damage to Yamuna floodplains and it posed tough questions to the representatives of the AOL Foundation and the government agencies at the NGT court on Tuesday.

At the hearing, the respondents (mainly government agencies) either contradicted their earlier statements or failed to justify why they granted the necessary permissions for the three-day event to AOL Foundation.

Here’s a glimpse into what happened at court:

NGT to AOL Foundation

(A) On DDA’s permission to organise the festival on Yamuna floodplains
NGT: DDA gave you permission, then it was revoked, and later it was again granted. Could you please tell how AOL Foundation convinced DDA to get the permission again?
AOL Foundation (vague in its reply): No reason was cited. We again applied and permission was granted with a few conditions attached by the DDA. What changes on ground that led to the permission is not known, but we’ll present it tomorrow.
[Note: Originally, the permission wasn’t given by the DDA due to a standing prohibition order of the NGT not to hold any kind of event on Yamuna floodplains.]

(B) On number of visitors attending the festival

Screengrab of the websiteScreengrab of the website

Screengrab of the website

NGT: Without any confusion, give us the exact figure of the number of visitors attending the event. Numbers have differed every time: one number was given to the court and another was quoted in the advertisement.
AOLF: The estimated number is three lakh. It will be between two and three lakh.
[Note: However, the AOL Foundation on its official website has claimed that 3.5 million (35 lakh) people from 155 countries are expected to congregate at the World Culture Festival.]

(C) On Environment Impact Assessment of the project
NGT: Did you conduct any environment impact assessment?
AOLF: Not on paper, but we had meetings with various ministries and officials.

(D) Regarding permission
NGT: Delhi Police and the fire brigade haven’t yet granted permission to WCF.
AOLF: Permissions from most authorities have been taken. Permission from the police and the fire brigade will be taken once the stage is ready.

(E) On construction
NGT: Can’t a temporary construction on the ground be considered as a ‘construction’?
AOLF: It’s temporary by nature and eco-friendly materials have been used.
NGT: How can a stage (structure) of 40 feet high and equally large in size remain erect without digging the ground to fix poles using boulders, compaction of floodplains, levelling etc?
AOFL: No concretisation was done and mud used for levelling. Used plates to hold the poles of the structure (But there was no clarity on whether digging was conducted or not].
[Note: NGT asked the authorities concerned, including the DDA, whether they ever visited the venue after they gave the permissions and once construction began.]

Questions NGT asked various government agencies

The preparations at the AOLF event. Naresh Sharma/FirstpostThe preparations at the AOLF event. Naresh Sharma/Firstpost

The preparations at the AOLF event. Naresh Sharma/Firstpost

On pollution: What about the pollution that would be caused because of the emission from thousands of vehicles used by attendees to arrive at the venue?
On construction of Pontoon bridges and ramps: On what basis was permission? Did any government agency conduct inspections during construction?
On impact of the event on the environment: Did any of the authorities — DDA, National Capital Territory, UP government, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Ministry of Water Resources, etc — consider the impact of this mega-event on floodplains, the environment, the river?
Why is Delhi Pollution Control Committee’s (DPCC) permission not needed?
DPCC’s lawyer Biraja Mahapatra reasoned that since it’s a cultural festival unlike any industrial activity, no permission of DPCC was needed.
The NGT disagreed, stating that the event will have repercussions on the environment with vehicles adding to pollution levels. Mahapatra then said the DPCC would revisit the original application of AOLF and get back to the NGT during the next hearing on 9 March.
It came as a surprise to the NGT when many of the agencies revealed that they were not aware of the size of the festival and the area it would cover while granting permission.

What environmental activists say:
Anand Arya, one of the petitioners against AOLF and DDA, told Firstpost, “DDA raised objections to AOLF’s application because the said venue is a 25-year floodplain line and as per the NGT, it’s sacrosanct. No celebrations can take place over there. Now the organiser has to tell the tribunal on what basis they again got permission after cancellation.”

The environment expert added, “It’s surprising to find government agencies unaware of the size of the festival. How can they give permission without having a detailed plan of the mega event? Moreover, the damage that would be caused to Yamuna bio-diversity that was built over centuries can’t even be imagined. Now the AOLF has reduced its visitors from 35 lakh to 3 lakh! Even if permission is given on the basis of 3 lakh visitors and if the number swells up, are they prepared to handle any mishap?”

“It seems to be a case of connivance between the DDA and AOLF, because despite having a standing order from the NGT, permission was granted to hold this mega event,” another activist said on condition of anonymity.

What AOL Foundation says:

“Allegations have been levelled against us for violating environmental norms. Before we began, we put applications to relevant authorities, seeking permission. We’ve written to the Ministry of Environment and DPCC – both the agencies are top most as far as environment issue is concerned. Rest, we’ll present before the NGT tomorrow,” said AOL Foundation’s counsel Akshama Nath.

What next?
Petitioners, organiser of WCF and government agencies are waiting to hear the verdict from NGT after the hearing on 9 March.

[Disclaimer: The story carries only the essence of day’s proceedings at the NGT and is not a verbatim representation.]

dna Afternoon Must Reads: From PM Modi’s address in Lok Sabha to tributes for Martin Crowe

1. Parliament is not allowed to function due to inferiority complex of opposition leaders, says PM in Lok SabhaStating that Parliament is a forum for debate and we must maintain decorum in the house, Modi said, “I appeal to the entire opposition in passage of important bills in both Houses of Parliament.” Read more here<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>2. NGT pulls up DDA on Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living event ‘World Culture Festival’The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday pulled up the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) for granting permission to hold spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s ‘World Culture Festival’ on the banks of Yamuna. Read more here3. Will behead anyone who raises anti-India slogans, says West Bengal BJP chief Dilip GhoshGhosh was addressing a meeting in Birbhum where clashes took place over a student’s Facebook post. Read more here4. Cricketers post heartfelt tributes as Martin ‘Hogan’ Crowe passes away at 53Pioneering cricketer Martin Crowe, widely acknowledged as New Zealand’s greatest batsman who laid the foundations for Twenty20 cricket, was hailed a “hero” Thursday after he died of cancer aged 53. Read more here5. Shraddha Kapoor gets a special birthday gift from Tiger Shroff!B-Town wishes Shraddha Kapoor a happy birthday, Tiger Shroff gets ‘Baaghi’ co-star a special gift! Read more here6. Here’s how to make sure your Facebook and Google accounts get deleted after you dieFollow a few simple steps to delete your Facebook and Google account once you die. Read more here

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living says it did not violate NGT guidelines

Facing allegations of damage to environment during preparations for its event on Yamuna flood plains, the Art of Living on Sunday asserted that it has followed all guidelines and directions of authorities and the National Green Tribunal.”The Art of Living has a huge regard for the environment. We have never violated nor do we have any intention to violate any laws of the country,” a statement by AOL Spokesperson said. “We have followed and further undertake to follow all the guidelines, recommendations, directions of the honourable court and the authorities extending us the permission to hold the World Culture Festival,” the spokesperson said. The Art of Living claimed that in strict adherence to the NGT direction, it has not done any construction or concretization at the World Culture festival site.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Further we have used only eco-friendly material like wood, mud, cloth, and scaffolding towards building a temporary stage for the purpose of holding a three-day festival,” it said. It noted that the Art of Living under Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has worked towards restoration of dying rivers in the country including the participation of its volunteers in Meri Dilli Meri Yamuna campaign in 2010. It claimed that when the site of the festival was identified in December 2015, there was already a massive dumping of construction debris spread over 25 acres of land which was brought to the notice of the DDA.”Only upon the grant of permission from the authorities/DDA in its letter dated 21st Dec 2015, the Art of Living started the process of removal/clearing of the said debris from December 22nd 2015 till date,” it said “We have not blocked any river channel of river Yamuna by throwing any debris into it,” it said. The National Green Tribunal had on February 19 directed a fresh inspection of the site on Yamuna floodplains after Prof A K Gosain of IIT-Delhi, one of the members of the earlier inspection team, submitted a report saying all existing vegetation has been cleared in the area and if the event was allowed, it would leave a “permanent footprint” on the floodplains of Yamuna.However, in another report, Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has given a clean chit to the foundation and said no digging work was done at the site. In his report, Gosain has said the construction and preparations for the event were carried out in violation of the NGT’s directions regarding the Yamuna flood plains. The AOL today claimed otherwise. “The stage is temporary in nature and every bit of it will be removed after the event is over by the Art of Living. There are no concrete roads that have been made at the venue. Even the ramps made at the venue are only temporary and made of mud involving zero concrete.”We have not cleared any greenery or levelled the area by dumping any construction debris as alleged. The material used towards construction of the temporary stage is not in any manner embedded in the river bed,” it said. It said there is no permanent structure or any construction at the site and personally commits to clear all the temporary structures being set up immediately after the event is over, ensuring that the place is left cleaner and more beautified than before.The programme venue is at a safe distance from the river bank as promised to the authorities and 650 biotoilets are being installed to ensure that none of the waste is passed on to river Yamuna, the AOL spokesperson said. The temporary pontoon bridges also are being built under proper permission from the authorities. No parking area has been created on the flood plains as alleged. Only a temporary pathway has been created to help people reach the venue, the spokesperson claimed.

Interpol, CBI probing illegal e-waste units in NCR, CPCB tells NGT

In what was dubbed as ‘shocking’ by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) informed the Tribunal on Thursday that Interpol and Central Bureau of Investigation are probing illegal E-waste recovery units operating on the Delhi-Ghaziabad border. The apex pollution watchdog made this submission during the hearing of a case on hazardous pollution caused by illegal e-waste disposal units located in the National Capital Region (NCR), including areas such as Loni and Mandoli. The petition has been filed by non-profit organization Law for Justice.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The CPCB had inspected the site and found enough evidence of hazardous waste generation from illegal recycling of heavy metals and e-waste. According to union environment ministry’s guidelines e-waste has to be handed over only to recycling companies authorised by state pollution control boards. The CPCB report said that the union environment ministry, on the directions of CBI, is looking into the matter. The NGT has listed the matter two weeks later and has said an “urgent order is warranted.”Interpol’s Environmental Security Sub-Directorate wrote to the CBI on the matter, as per the CPCB report and requested information on, “reports about e-waste recycling activities in Loni and Mandoli areas situated on the outskirts of Delhi and contamination of soil and groundwater in those areas.” CPCB sources did not make it clear why Interpol has asked CBI to look into the matter and they also did not elaborate actions they took against the alleged environmental crimes.After visiting the illegal units in question the CPCB made damning observations. Their report, reviewed by dna, said that hazardous waste generated from lead furnaces and other recycling operations is being dumped in adjoining open plots and along the roads. These units are spread across Rahul Garden, Behta Hazipur and Amit Vihar near Loni bordering Mandoli, East Delhi. These operations may well be spread in neighbouring areas such as Tila Goan, Govind Tal, Kumahar Colony and Mandoli, CPCB said.Lamenting on the poor working conditions in the illegal units, the report said, “The working environment in these units are found to be very poor and unhygienic. Workers were found exposed to fumes. The units were using bore wells installed nearby for their daily needs. These units are operating without due permissions from Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board.

Yamuna expenditure details ‘inadequate and vague’, NGT slams Jal Board

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday pulled up the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) for spending crores of money on projects related to Yamuna cleaning “contrary to orders of the Tribunal.” Earlier this month, the Tribunal had asked DJB to give a detailed account of money spent on Yamuna cleaning as it had been asked to disburse funds only after the NGT’s due permissions.DJB submitted his affidavit on Monday and defended its expenditure on different projects. As per DJB’s affidavit, Rs576 crore was spent in current financial year on interceptor sewer project, maintenance and strengthening of old truck-peripheral sewers, maintenance of old sewage treatment plants and on-going works related to STP’s, internal sewer line maintenance in residential areas and on projects related to sewerage facilities in unauthorized colonies.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>But DJB’s affidavit detailing their expenditure left the Tribunal unimpressed. The order of the bench, chaired by justice Swatanter Kumar, said, “The affidavit filed on behalf DJB is insufficient, inadequate and is vague. Prima facie it appears to us that DJB has acted contrary to the orders of the Tribunal. Before we take any action let Member Technical and concerned Chief Engineer collectively file an affidavit in terms of the order dated 19th February, 2016. They should file a comprehensive and definite affidavit. We make it clear that we will not grant any further opportunity.” The NGT bench also warned Jal Board of harsh action.Earlier this month, the NGT had already slammed the DJB when it observed that despite its clear instructions, huge amounts of money was spent on Yamuna cleaning with little or no improvement. In fact last November, after learning that nearly Rs900 crore were spent on Yamuna cleaning, the NGT bench had directed DJB to not spend any more without its approval.In its past order, the NGT had stressed,”Out of Plan-Expenditure of DJB, no amount in regard to sewage network and establishment of sewage treatment plant will be incurred by DJB at all. The expenditure that would be incurred; would be for the maintenance purposes only. It was because of the limitation of the finances available that this direction was issued from time to time.