Activism Strikes Char Dham All-Weather Highway: SC Accepts Plea To Stall Project, Despite NGT Clearance

Activism Strikes Char Dham All-Weather Highway: SC Accepts Plea To Stall Project, Despite NGT ClearanceChar Dham pilgrims awaiting their turn to pray at the Kedarnath temple. (Vinay Santosh Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

The Supreme Court on Monday (26 November) sought a response from the Centre in relation to a petition challenging the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) approval to the Char Dham project, The Tribune has reported. It questioned why it should not stay NGT’s green signal.

The project seeking to provide all-weather connectivity to the four holy towns of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri in Uttarakhand is being opposed by a non-governmental organisation (NGO) called ‘Citizens for Green Doon’.

The matter is being heard by a Supreme Court bench comprising of Justices R F Nariman and Navin Sinha, which had given the Centre 20 days for filing its response. The bench also told the petitioner’s advocate, Sanjay Parekh, that they could go to the NGT appointed committee for the project with their grievances.

Parekh argued that irreversible ecological damage equivalent to the construction of 10 hydro projects would be caused to Uttarakhand’s fragile environment if the project is allowed to go ahead. He accused the Centre of proceeding with the 900-km highway project in bits and pieces to avoid the necessary environmental clearances.

He warned that if the project was allowed to go ahead, another tragedy like the 2013 Kedarnath floods could occur. In June 2013, the Chorabari lake in Kedarnath had collapsed after cloudbursts, resulting in massive flash floods. An estimated 10,000 people were killed, and another 3,000 were declared missing.

The NGT had constituted a committee to monitor the project on 26 September, stating that, “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 this project.”

The committee is headed by former Uttarakhand High Court judge justice U C Dhyani, and it will oversee the implementation of the Environment Management Plan (EMP) for the project.