DEHRADUN: After the Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Centre to follow the 2018 circular issued by Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, regarding the road width for Chardham Paryojana, Ravi Chopra, chairman of the high powered committee (HPC) monitoring the project welcomed the decision.
"The honorable Supreme Court has supported our view. We are glad that now there will be check on activities which may result in irreversible destruction of the ecology of the hills inviting disaster," said Chopra, speaking to The New Indian Express.
The apex court also directed the Centre to undertake plantation activities to compensate for the loss of forest area due to the construction under the paryojana. The SC appointed the HPC last year to oversee the dream project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi worth Rs 12000 Crore which aims to widen 889kms of road linking Chardham shrines.
The circular calls for following the 5.5 metre width protocol on hill roads as opposed to 12 meter width proposed by the central government. The same view was put forward by the 5 members including the chairman of the HPC while the rest 14 members voted supporting 12 meter width.
Interestingly, all the committee members supporting 12 metre width are employees of either the Centre or the Uttarakhand government while 3 of the minority group supporting 5.5 meter width are independent experts and one is a scientist at the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun.
In July this year, the HPC submitted two reports to the Supreme Court as the committee members were not of unanimous opinion on the width of the road in the project. One group recommended 12 metres which the another advocated for 5.5 metres for road width in the hilly areas.
However, both the reports pointed out various violations regarding tree going, dumping of muck using wrong methods citing threat to ecology and environment.
On August 13, Chopra had wrote to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change citing serious violations and lapses in the project seeking strict action against the violaters. "This is a brazen violation, as if the Rule of Law does not exist," said Chopra, in the 13-page letter.
Last month, state environment minister Harak Singh Rawat labelled objections raised by chairman of Supreme Court appointed high powered committee (HPC) over Chardham Paryojana as 'Rubbish'.