Two expert members of Char Dham panel call the road project a ‘Himalayan blunder’

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(This story originally appeared in on Jul 21, 2020)

NEW DELHI: Two expert members in the Supreme Court-appointed committee on Char Dham road project have flagged serious issues over the widening of this 900-km road to 10 metres uniformly and termed it “A Himalayan Blunder”. This “minority view” has been incorporated in the “Main Report” that the panel chairman, environmentalist Ravi Chopra has submitted to the ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC).

Chopra told TOI that this note was submitted by two members, Hemant Dhyani and Navin Juyal. They have raised concerns over the road transport and highways ministry’s decision to divide the entire stretch to 53 smaller projects to avoid conducting environment impact assessment (EIA) study despite the hills being contiguous. Each divided stretch is less than 100km. The MoEFCC norms make it mandatory for linear project of more than 100 km to go for EIA study.

They were part of a five- member group, including Chopra, that has objected to widening of the road to 10 metres while the majority members (21) have favoured widening of the corridor to 10 metres. The majority group has also submitted its “Final Report” to the MoEFCC recommending several damage mitigation measures.

“Our views are based on historical data. These stretches, particularly in the high Himalaya, are very vulnerable. We have said that the stretch between Pipalkoti and Patalganga must not be touched at all. We have enough fund for building and widening roads, but there is hardly any fund for slope management, which is critical in such areas,” geologist Hemant Juyal told TOI.

He added that they have given their views that even where the hill cutting has happened, only 5.5 metres should be tarred and the rest should be used for pedestrians and greenery.

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Tagged Char dham, char dham road project, Environment Impact Assessment, Expert members, Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change, Road transport

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