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Current Affairs

Char Dham road debate

Date: 15 November 2021 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

The Supreme Court has reserved its verdict regarding the widening of Char Dham Mahamarg Vikas Pariyojana (Char Dham Highway Development Project) of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH).

 

Background

The Ministry of Defence has argued that widening of the road is necessary for the protection of the country’s borders but environment groups are against the move.

 

Details

  • The project was conceived in 2016 to widen the road to provide all-year connectivity to Char Dham circuit.

  • The cost was estimated to be Rs 12,000 crore and would improve 889 km of hilly stretch in the state of Uttarakhand to connect the Char Dhams of Gangotri, Yamunotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath.

 

The controversy

  • The project was challenged by an NGO that had feared ecological damage to the sensitive Himalayan ecosystem.

  • The project would have cut trees, drill hills and dump the excavated mud to impact the natural ecosystem.

  • The Supreme Court had formed a high-powered committee (HPC) under environmentalist Ravi Chopra to examine the issues.

 

The issues flagged

The expansion is being carried out without honouring the Supreme Court’s stay. Illegal cutting has been carried out in protected areas of Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary, Rajaji National Park, Valley of Flowers National Park etc.

 

The defence argument

  • Eventhough the project was mainly conceived for facilitating easy travel for Char Dham and boost tourism, it has a defence angle to it.

  • This defence angle is now being used as a sole justification for widening the road and allowing connectivity to forward areas.

  • The HPC says that disaster resilient roads were more important than wider roads. Widening roads would negatively impact the stability of young unsettled Himalayas.