Supreme Court: “Char Dham Pariyojana has caused long term damage”

On August 26, 2020, the High-Powered Committee appointed by Supreme Court has asked the Environment Ministry to take strict actions against the violation of forest and wildlife laws by “Char Dham Pariyojana”.

Highlights

The committee has said that the project has caused incalculable and long-term damages to Himalayan Ecology. The Char Dham Pariyojana aims to connect major pilgrimage sites. The committee has submitted two reports on the project.

Key findings of the report

  • It disagreed the ideal width of 12 metres against 5.5 metres for hill roads
  • Felling of trees in different stretches of the roads were illegally continuing since 2017. According to rules, a project can continue its work only for a year after forest clearance approval. Later, it is to be extended only after satisfactory progress report. These are under Forest (Conservation) Act and NGT Act.

What are violations?

According to the report, the project has made the following violations

  • Misuse of old clearances
    • The work was started on several stretches based on forest clearance issued by Border Road Organization in 2011-12
    • This is illegal as the scope of the work has changed drastically.
  • Tree felling commenced after falsely declaring that the stretches do not fall under Eco Sensitive Zones of Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Violation of directions of Supreme Court
    • The Supreme Court in April 2019 had directed to conduct a rapid Environment Impact Assessment before starting the work. This was not done

Char Dham Highway

It is an express National Highway with a minimum width of 10 metres in the state of Uttarakhand. It will complement the proposed highway construction Char Dham Railway by connecting the holy places Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri.

The total cost of the project is Rs 12, 000 crores. The highway is called “Char Dham Mahamarg” and the construction project will be called Char Dham Mahamarg Vikas Pariyojana.

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