DAINIK NATION BUREAU
The National Green Tribunal has issued notices to the Centre and the Uttarakhand government to show cause why the ongoing work on the Char Dham highway project to provide all-weather connectivity to four holy towns of the state, should not be stayed.
A bench headed by Justice Jawad Rahim sought responses from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Environment Ministry and the Uttarakhand government by March 12 after a plea alleged that over 25,000 trees have been chopped over a combined stretch of 356 km of forest land in complete violation of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and the Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006.
“In the meanwhile, issue notice to show cause as to why interim order sought should not be granted,” the bench said.
The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by Dehradun-based NGO Citizens For Green Doon and others seeking stay on the Char Dham project and directions to identify stretches of highways where landslides are likely to occur due to recent cutting of trees. It alleged that the road widening work to connect Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamunotri and Gangotri in Uttarakhand was being carried in violation of the environmental laws.
“The Char Dham project involves excavating and cutting away the base of the steep mountain slopes, cutting of thousands of valuable trees and thus further destabilizing the mountains and in fact turning the entire area into an active landslide zone.
“It is pertinent to mention that not only will this block traffic and disrupt local life and tourist inflow greatly but in every monsoon people will lose their lives when the landslides fall with even greater force,” the plea said adding that the area falls in a highly seismic zone which has a history of earthquakes.
The plea claimed that there was no information published for any Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regarding this project and it was nowhere found in the public domain whether the EIA of this 900-km massive project, costing around Rs 12,000 crore, was conducted or not.
“The applicants came to know about the execution of this project after massive cutting of trees on the different segments of this Chardham route (Rishikesh to Gangotri, Dharasu to Yamunotri, Rishikesh to Kedarnath and Badrinath) which recently started in the month of December, 2017,” the plea said.
It has been cIaimed in the petition that these Stage I and II forest clearance approvals were granted segment-wise and the number of trees in the forests to be cut were not declared for the entire project. Instead, the project has been divided into numbers of segments for granting of approvals.
The tribunal had last year disposed off a similar plea challenging the project after 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.