Centre to respond to charge of Chamoli disaster due to Chardham project

KT NEWS SERVICE. Dated: 2/18/2021 12:27:09 PM

NEW DELHI, Feb 17: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to respond to the allegations of the flash floods in Uttarakhand on February 7 linked to the broadening of the roads under the Chardham Project.
The allegations were made by Ravi Chopra, chairman of a high-powered committee set up by the Apex Court that is monitoring the Chardham highway project for widening of the roads up to India-China border to connect all four Holy towns by a motorable road in all seasons.
Attorney General K K Venugopal told a Bench headed by Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman that he would file response to the allegations and asserted that Chopra had on his own written the letter to the government linking the disaster with the Chardham project.
The Bench, which also included Justices Hemant Gupta and B R Gavai, asked him to file the response and adjourned the matter for hearing after two weeks.
The apex court had on January 18 asked the parties to file their replies or objections, if any, on the report filed by the high-powered committee.
The strategic 900-km Chardham highway project aims to provide all-weather connectivity to four holy towns -- Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath -- in Uttarakhand.
The Centre had urged the top court to accept the majority report of 21-members of the high powered committee recommending the road to be developed to two-lane with paved shoulders (10 metre wide carriageway) considering the strategic requirement and snow removal needs.
The Centre in its affidavit had said that pursuant to the direction of the court on December 2, last year, the High Powered Committee (HPC) met on December 15-16, 2020, and deliberated on the issue of width of the road. The committee's report was submitted to the Supreme Court on December 31.
"That the report of HPC is again split primarily on the issue of the width of the road, with 21 members (16 members plus co-opted members) recommending the road to be developed to two-lane with paved shoulders (10 metre wide carriageway) considering the strategic requirement and snow removal needs, as per the provisions of Indian Road Congress: 52-2019 as well as the modified circular dated December 15, 2020 issued by MoRTH, with proper safeguards for landslides control measures..," the affidavit said.
It said that three members including the chairman Ravi Chopra (minority report) is still impressing upon the width of 5.5 metres as provided under the earlier circular dated March 23, 2018 issued by Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH), notwithstanding the security needs of the country and the need of the defence forces to resist external aggression, if any, as the Indo-China border.
Claiming that the majority report took a holistic view keeping in mind the social, economic and strategic needs while protecting the environment, the affidavit said the project proponent is duty bound to minimize the adverse impact of the Chardham project on environment as well as the social life and bring the project in conformity with the steep valley terrain, carrying capacity and avoiding any triggering of new landslides, ensuring conservation and protection of sensitive Himalayan valleys.

 

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