NEW DELHI: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) today fixed September 4 for hearing a petition dealing with the environmental clearance issue related to Chardham highway project providing all-weather connectivity to four holy towns of Uttarakhand.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel posted the matter for hearing at 2 pm after taking note of the Supreme Court order which had asked him to grant at least one clear day to finally dispose off the matters.
The matter will be hard by a bench of Justices Jawad Rahim and S P Wangdi and expert member Nagin Nanda.
The apex court had yesterday acceded to the request of advocate Sanjay Parikh, appearing for petitioner NGO 'Citizens for Green Doon', that the matter be heard by a three-member bench as they had reserved the judgment on May 31.
The green panel is seized of the petitions which are dealing with environmental clearances for the project which aims to connect Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamunotri and Gangotri in Uttarakhand.
The Centre had told the tribunal that Chardham highway project was of national importance as it is located in border area.
"Expansion of roads is required in larger national interest and there cannot be any compromise on this. The project also involves greater public interest of facilitating the Chardham yatra," it had said earlier.
The petitioner NGO had said that the environment clearance was must for the project and the ongoing work was "blatantly illegal".
It had said the trees and mountains are also of national importance and it is the government's duty to protect and preserve them.
The Environment Ministry had earlier informed the NGT that it has received no proposal for environmental clearance of the project and hence the question of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study of such a project does not arise.
The ministry also said that under the 2006 EIA notification, only new national highways and expansion of highways over 100 kms need to get prior environmental clearance.
The submission was made in response to a plea of the NGO which said that the 900-km project in the hilly state was being carried out without any Environmental Impact Assessment.
The petition of the NGO also contended that the Centre has allegedly deliberately broken it into small stretches to do away the requirement for obtaining environment clearance.
The tribunal had earlier rapped the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways for failing to submit a plan for disposal of muck from the highway project.
The NGO had sought a stay on the Chardham project and directions to identify stretches of highways where landslides were likely to occur due to recent cutting of trees.
It had alleged that the road widening work to connect Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamunotri and Gangotri was being carried out in violation of environmental laws.
"The Chardham project involves excavating and cutting away the base of the steep mountain slopes, cutting of thousands of valuable trees and thus further destabilising the mountains and in fact turning the entire area into an active landslide zone," it alleged.
The tribunal had last year disposed a similar plea challenging the project after the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) assured the NGT that they would carry out the project after due compliance with the laws, especially the Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone notification of December 18, 2012.