Why no stay on ‘Char Dham’ project? SC asks Centre

Representative image

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on November 26, 2018, sought the Centre’s response as to why it should not stay the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order clearing the ambitious Char Dham project, which proposes to provide all-weather connectivity to the four holy towns namely Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath in Uttarakhand.

A bench of Justices R F Nariman and Navin Sinha said that the Centre should file its response in two weeks.

Advocate Sanjay Parekh appeared for the petitioner NGO — ‘Citizens for Green Doon’. He said that the NGT cleared the project and set up a committee to oversee it. He further said that if the project is permitted to go on then it will cause an irreversible damage to the ecology which will be equal to the damage done by 10 hydropower projects. The NGT had been allowing the projects to go on after constituting 15-20 committees to oversee the projects.

Parekh added that the Centre was deliberately constructing the 900-km-long projects in bits and pieces to avoid the necessity of environmental clearances. The mountains in Uttarakhand are very fragile and if environmental concerns are not taken care of then the Kedarnath-type tragedy which took place in 2013, can occur again.

The bench said, “We cannot stay the order without hearing the Centre.”

On September 26, the NGT had constituted a committee to monitor the ambitious project while giving its nod with some safeguards in view of the larger public interest and the country’s security in the construction of highway.

The green tribunal constituted a committee headed by the former Uttarakhand High Court Judge Justice U C Dhyani to oversee the implementation of Environment Management Plan (EMP) of the project. The tribunal had directed the authorities to devise a mechanism to provide pedestrian pathways for devotees who undertake to do ‘padyatra’ to the religious places.

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