New Delhi:The Centre, citing the Chinese build-up on the other side, has appealed for widening the road, which, it said, are feeder roads for the border areas and are of great strategic importance. It has also sought amendment to the top court’s order of September 2020, in which the judges kept the Char Dham roads limited to 5.5 meters. The Centre has argued that the roads should be widened up to 7 meters.
However, the petitioner-NGO had opposed the road-widening, citing the felling of trees in the wildlife-rich area that’s leading to increasing instances of landslides.
The Char Dham highway project which connects the four shrines of Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath in upper Himalayas, has a 899-km road. The Rs 12,000-crore highway expansion project was envisaged in 2016. Laying the foundation stone in December 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the project as a tribute to those who lost their lives during flash floods in the state.
Char Dham Road Expansion: The Controversy
The road expansion project was challenged by an NGO in 2018 for its potential impact on Himalayan ecology due to felling trees, cutting hills and dumping muck (excavated material) after which the supreme court formed a high-powered committee (HP) under environmentalist Ravi Chopra to examine the issue, The Indian Express reported.
By July 2020, the committee had submitted two reports after members disagreed on the ideal width for hill roads. The majority report by 21 HPC members, 14 of them government officials, favoured a width of 12m as envisaged in the project following national highway double-lane with paved shoulder standards: 7 m carriageway, 1.5 m paved shoulders on both sides, and 1 m earthen shoulders on either side for drains and utilities (hillside) and crash barrier (valley side).