NGT seeks details on Char Dham project

New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal on Tuesday called upon the Centre to submit a detailed status report on the ongoing and planned work on Char Dham all-weather highway being constructed in Uttarakhand’s Gharwal region.

The Rs 12,000 crore project aims at widening the existing 900 km two-lane into a four lane highway with all weather connectivity to the base camps of famous pilgrimage sites Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri, situated in the higher reaches of the Himalayas.

On Tuesday, the Tribunal also pulled up Ministry of Road Transport and Highways on disposal of muck into river valleys as part of the on-going work on the project and expressed dissatisfaction’ about it. The ministry will file the status report by May 28.

A bench, headed by Acting Chairperson Justice Jawad Rahim, also made the observations while hearing an on-going plea that has alleged that the ministry has executed the project without obtaining proper environmental clearance.

Using a loop-hole, the project is being executed by obtaining clearances by dividing the entire project into segment rather than going for a consolidated environmental clearance.

“We would like you to ensure that the muck disposal in valley does not happen. We have seen videos and photographs and we are far from satisfied. Prima facie, the muck is going beyond retaining walls,” the bench observed.

Last week, during the hearing the petitioner had showed videos of muck being dumped on a stretch of the project in Mandakini valley near Rudraprayag.

Senior advocate Sanjay Parikh, appearing for the petitioner, told the NGT that the work carried out on the project till now is ‘blatantly illegal’ and that it was a malafide exercise to divide the project into fragments.

Accepting this, in an affidavit submitted on behalf of the Centre, Additional Solicitor General Atmaram Nadkarni stated that there might have been some irregularities in the disposal of muck at initial stage and therefore ministry as well as state government has taken stringent strength measures and also imposed penalties on the contractor.

However, the ASG also added that the project is of national importance having regard to the fact that these are border areas.

“Expansion of roads is required in larger national interest and there cannot be any compromise on this. While preparing DPR for the project, environmental studies have been undertaken and those concerns are also addressed.” Nadkarni informed the green courth, adding that the Centre has no qualms in applying for environmental clearance but work if left incomplete will cause problems due to the impending monsoon. A

The matter will be heard again on May 28.