The NGT has found a building owned by a trust of the Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to have been built in violation of environmental norms in east Kolkata.
In a major blow to spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, whose organisation the Art of Living has long been under scrutiny over allegations of flouting environmental norms, the National Green Tribunal's eastern bench today ordered the demolition of a building constructed by the foundation in Kolkata's ecologically fragile wetlands.
The NGT order, passed earlier this week, asked the East Kolkata Wetland Management Authority (EKWMA) to "remove all illegal structures" raised by the Vaidic Dharma Sansthan Trust, a part of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living foundation.
The order has also asked the EKWMA to consider "imposition of appropriate penalty" against the organisation for flouting green norms and "encroaching" upon the wetland. The EKWMA is a statutory body under the West Bengal government's Department of Environment entrusted with the upkeep of the wetlands.
The NGT order came on a petition filed in May 2016 by PUBLIC, a Kolkata-based NGO working on environmental issues.
The EKWMA had filed an FIR last year against Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Vaidic Dharma Sansthan for flouting environmental norms to construct a three storey ''illegal'' structure called the ''Temple of Knowledge'' in the east Kolkata wetlands, a region considered extremely fragile ecologically.
About 12,500 hectres of wetland in Kolkata's eastern fringe are included in the Ramsar list of 'Wetlands of International Importance'. However, due to indiscriminate urbanisation, the site is under extreme threat.
It is in this very area that the Vaidic Dharma Sansthan constructed the three storey-concrete structure, which activists say is a blatant violation of the East Kolkata Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Act of 2006.
The East Kolkata Wetland Management Authority had earlier slapped at least two notices on Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's organisation seeking immediate halt on all construction activity at the site. The first notice was served in August 2015. The second one was sent a month later in September that year.
Last year, India Today had reported how despite repeated warnings, construction of the building was completed at the site and events are organised at the premises by the spiritual guru's organisation.
Law forbids any new construction and change of land use in the east Kolkata wetlands as the area is critical to the survival of the city. It drains water from the city and naturally processes millions of litres of liquid waste every day.
"The entire process for removal of illegal structures shall be completed within three months without fail. Compliance report shall be filed in the first week of the fourth month, i.e. in the first week of February 2018," the NGT has stated in its October 25 order.
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