NGT Current Affairs - 2019
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The Supreme Court has given its nod to Chardham Development Plan which connects the holy places of Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath by all-weather roads.
What is the issue?
The construction of all weather roads in the environmentally critical zone of Himalayas was questioned in the National Green Tribunal (NGT). The National Green Tribunal had cleared the Chardham Project and had formed an oversight committee to monitor the environmental safeguards during the construction of the project.
This order was questioned in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court refused to stay the order of NGT and had asked the Centre to file its affidavit on a plea seeking a stay on the order of the NGT.
Significance of Chardham Yatra
As per Hindu traditions, Char Dham Yatra opens the gates of salvation by washing away all the sins. The term Chardham is believed to be coined by Shri Adi Shankaracharya, which means four abodes of God or Holy Destinations.
The Yatra begins from Yamunotri, then the pilgrims head to Gangotri, thereafter to Kedarnath and finally to Badrinath to complete the Chardham Yatra.
Yamunotri is the source of the sacred Yamuna River. According to Hindu Mythology, Yamuna was the sister of Yamraj and she was promised by Yamraj that whoever takes the holy dip in the Yamuna River will not be taken to Yamlok and they would attain salvation. Yamunotri is also the seat of Goddess Yamuna.
Gangotri i.e. Gomukh is the birth place of the Holy River Ganga. The stone on which King Bhagirath did meditation to bring Goddess Ganga to earth is located near Ganga Temple in Gangotri. A temple dedicated to Goddess Ganga is located in this pious area.
Kedarnath is one of the twelve jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva and the temple is believed to be restored by Adi Shankaracharya.
Badrinath is considered as the most sacred among the four shrines and is located on the left bank of the Alaknanda River. The temple at Badrinath is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the protector and preserver of the divine Hindu Trinity (Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva). It is also believed that Adi Shankaracharya got freedom from the process of reincarnation at Badrinath.
The Chardham Development Plan is the project of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
Thoothukudi Sterlite Plant is the largest copper smelter plant in India, in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu which is operated by Vedanta group. It started its operation in 1998 till 2018 when the plant was shut on the orders of Tamil Nadu government in May 2018. The Tamil Nadu government gave closure order after various violent protests from locals demanding the entire shutdown of the smelting plants which were operational.
Thoothukudi Sterlite Plant Controversy:
- The Thoothukudi Sterlite plant has been long-opposed by the local residents for polluting their environment as well as causing a range of health problems and has been subject to several closures, on grounds of violating environmental norms.
- The people of Thoothukudi has been opposing for long for the closure of the plant. They blame the plant for the pollution of their environment and for various health problems in the area.
- The National Environmental Research Institute (NEERI) and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board also found the evidence that the plant contaminated the groundwater, air and soil of the areas with its effluents and also for the violation of the standards of operation.
- In 2010, the Madras High Court ordered a shutdown of the Sterlite plant for the violation of environmental regulations.
- In April 2013, The Supreme Court struck down the Madras high court’s order. It put a fine on Sterlite of Rs 100 crore for polluting the environment and for operation without the consent of TNPCB. The plant soon reopened after this favourable order.
- But in March 2013, The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board re-ordered a closure of the plant on grounds of gas leakage, causing nausea and skin irritation among residents of the area.
- There were renewed mass-protests in March and April 2018 against the company’s plans of establishing a second smelting complex. The locals demanded the entire shutdown of the smelting plants on the grounds of violating environmental regulations. The protests took a violent turn and many people got killed.
- On 28th May 2018, the Tamil Nadu government ordered for the permanent closure of Sterlite plant in Thoothukudi.
The National Green Tribunal on 15th December 2018 had dismissed the state government’s order of May 2018 to shut down the plant permanently. Recently, the Tamil Nadu government has announced to approach the Supreme Court challenging the National Green Tribunal (NGT)’s order allowing the reopening of Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper plant in Thoothukudi.