SC clears Chardham highway project

New Delhi, Aug 16 (IANS) The Supreme Court has allowed various works in progress under Centre's Chardham Mahamarg Vikas Pariyojna plan for connecting four holy places -- Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kdarnath and Badrinath -- by an all-weather road.

An apex court bench comprising Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman and Surya Kant also ordered the Ministry of Environment and Forests to form a high-powered committee (HPC) by August 22.

The bench said the committee will consider cumulative as well as independent impact of the Chardham project on entire Himalayan valleys.

The committee will also give directions to conduct Environmental Impact Assessment by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, the court said and asked the committee to submit its recommendations within four months.

The bench said the committee will hold quarterly meetings to ensure compliance and may suggest any further measure after each review meeting.

The committee would consider if revision of the full Chardham project should at all take place in order to minimize the adverse impact on the environment and social life.

The court said the committee will also assess the environmental degradation, loss of forest lands, water resources and the impact on the wildlife. The committee will direct mitigation measures.

The court was hearing a plea by NGO Citizen for Green Doon against the National Green Tribunal's September 26 2018 order giving its conditional approval to the connectivity project in view of larger public interest.

The NGT, while clearing the Chardham project, had said: "We are of the view that all environmental concerns can be addressed by having a responsible and independent oversight mechanism which may monitor the environmental safeguards during the execution of the project."

The NGO said the NGT, instead of looking at the entire project as one whole, viewed it in over 50 segments, which made them appear small projects not necessitating environment clearance or public hearing.

The NGO said that the hills in the region are fragile and that if the project is allowed to continue, it would cause an irreversible damage to ecology that would be equal to the damage done together by 10 hydro power projects.

--IANS

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