Suggest Additional Safeguards for the Chardham Project: Supreme Court Center.
New Delhi: On Wednesday, the Supreme Court asked the Center and an NGO to suggest additional safeguards that it could impose on the implementing agencies of the ambitious Chardham project if it allows the billion-rupee project to continue to consider the huge ramification of the defense needs of the rupee. country.
The higher court said that instead of saying that additional safeguards should be put in place, it would like to put in the court order the conditions that the project’s implementing agencies would have to follow.
The Center said it has already conducted several studies, including geological surveys of the areas, and taken various measures to reduce the incidents of landslides, but that it would not mind if the court put additional safeguards.
The 900 km long strategic project worth Rs 12,000 crore aims to provide all-weather connectivity to four holy cities: Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath, in Uttarakhand.
A bench of judges DY Chandrachud, Surya Kant and Vikram Nath clarified that it has not made a decision on the dispute, but that the questions it is asking are only to get a better response from the parties on the matter.
“We want to clarify that we have not made a decision. We are open to arguments. Any question we ask the lawyers is only to get a better answer,” he said at the beginning.
The court is hearing the Center’s petition requesting the modification of the order of September 8, 2020, which had requested the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) to follow 2018 circular that stipulates a road width of 5 5 meters on the ambitious Chardham highway project, which runs to the border with China.
The court asked attorney general KK Venugopal, on behalf of the Center, and chief advocate Collin Gonsalves, who appeared for an NGO “Citizens for Green Doon” to suggest what kind of additional safeguards the court can put in place if it allows the project. Chardham continues with more roads.
“We may impose some restrictions on a limited basis. You should also reflect on the additional safeguards that we can put in implementing agencies such as the Border Roads Organization and the Department of Public Works (PWD). These agencies will ensure that the safeguards are met. they will address the concerns mentioned in the majority report of the High Powers Committee, “the magistrate told the Attorney General.
He said the Center should also suggest alternatives, safeguards or measures to be taken in the areas of the Himalayan region in Uttarakhand, which are areas or sectors prone to landslides.
The court told Gonsalves: “Although it is a tentative opinion, considering the enormous ramifications of the country’s enormous defense needs, whether the court allows the project to follow the safeguards it can put in place or the restrictions it can put.”
The bank said the NGO could suggest steps such as monitoring air quality, scientifically removing manure, reducing blasting, and other measures that would mitigate concerns in the High-Level Committee reports.
Mr. Gonsalves said that all measures taken by the Center to mitigate the concerns have failed and that it is high time that they leave the mountains alone and halt the project immediately to avoid further environmental degradation and endangering the life of the people.
The bank said that Mr. Gonsalves should not be under the impression that the issue is between defense versus environment or Army versus civilians, but the question is how to balance the need for sustainable development of society with the protection of the environment.
“We have been in higher areas of these mountains and we have seen how the lives of the men and women of the Army are linked to the lives of the civilians who live there. Sometimes when someone gets sick and the roads are closed due to Nevada, the Army comes to help and transport those people by air to nearby hospitals. When there is a shortage of food or fuel supplies, Army trucks come and restore these supplies. They live in those conditions, “said Judge Chandrachud.
Mr. Gonsalves said that the double lane of the highway cannot continue because it is not in the welfare of the people or the Army, as it will put people’s lives at risk due to landslides.
On Tuesday, the high court referred to the India-China border standoff and wondered if a constitutional court can override the Army’s need to defend the country and say that environmental protection will trump defense needs.
He had said that the court cannot ignore the fact that there is an adversary who has developed border infrastructure to the hilt and the Army needs better roads to the border, which has not seen any radical change since the 1962 war.
He said that sustainable development must take place and must be balanced with the environment, as the court cannot ignore the fact that these roads must be improved.
The hearing on the matter was unfinished and would continue on Thursday.
The Center, in its affidavit previously filed in the matter, had urged the higher court to accept the report of the majority of 21 members of the HPC recommending that the road be developed to two lanes with paved shoulders (10 meter wide carriageway). ) considering the strategic requirement and snow removal needs.
In its request, the Defense Ministry had said that it seeks to change the order and directions so that the national highways from Rishikesh to Mana, from Rishikesh to Gangotri and from Tanakpur to Pithoragarh can be developed to a two-lane configuration.