Char Dham project damaged Himalayan ecosystem: SC panel to Centre

There were brazen violations of forest and wildlife laws in the project, the SC-appointed high-powered committee's head tells the environment ministry

The high-powered committee had submitted its report in which it said measures were not taken to minimise the loss of forests and green cover. Credits. Twitter

The Char Dham Pariyojana of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) to provide road connectivity to the four main pilgrimage centres in Uttarakhand has resulted in “incalculable” damage to the Himalayan ecosystem and action must be taken against those responsible, the chairperson of a high-powered committee appointed by the Supreme Court to examine the ecological impact of the project has said in a letter to the environment ministry.

The ministry must take strict action for the “brazen” violation of many forest and wildlife laws in the project to connect Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri through national highways, Ravi Chopra said in the letter to the environment secretary on August 13. It is “as if the Rule of Law does not exist”, he said, The Indian Express reported.

The high-powered committee had submitted its final report in July in which it said measures were not taken to minimise the loss of forests and green cover.

The felling of trees, cutting of hills and dumping of excavated material for the project had resulted in “incalculable and “long-term” damage to the Himalayan ecology”, Chopra said in his letter.

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He listed various violations involved the project: trees were felled illegally in many areas and forests were cleared based on old clearance that was given to the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), which did take into account the impact of cutting hills, and by giving false declarations to the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL). He said in some stretches, the project also violated some Supreme Court directives.

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Environment secretary Rameshwar Prasad Gupta said he has no knowledge of the letter, according to the Indian Express.

The Rs 12,000-crore Char Dham Pariyojana is one of the pet projects of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had laid its foundation stone on December 27, 2016. It aims to promote tourism in the pilgrimage circuit. The HPC, however, in its July report had said that mass tourism can result in serious damage to the environment of the region.

The project “is being implemented primarily as an engineering exercise with little concern for the air, water and noise pollution, the report had said.

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