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Parliamentary proceedings | Char Dham project did not need environment assessment: Centre to Parliament

December 06, 2023 10:11 pm | Updated 10:11 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Under the directions of the Supreme Court, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has set up a Committee to consider the impact of Char Dham Projects on the entire Himalayan valleys

The entrance of the Silkyara Bend-Barkot Tunnel from the Barkot side during the rescue operation of 41 workers trapped inside. File. | Photo Credit: Shashi Shekhar Kashyap

The Char Dham project in Uttarakhand, under which Silkyara tunnel, is being developed did not require an Environment Impact Assessment, the Union government told Parliament on December 6.

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A landslide caused a portion of the 4.5 kms tunnel to cave in on November 12 leaving 41 men trapped for 16 days. They were brought out alive following a lengthy rescue operation.

Also read | Moulding the Himalayas needs caution

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change through its notification dated August 22, 2013, requires expansion of National Highways greater than 100 km involving additional right of way or land acquisition greater than 40 metre on existing alignments and 60 metre on re-alignments require prior environment clearance. And though the Char Dham projects totals 825 kms, since it was being developed in smaller parcels of 53 projects, each with a length of less than 100 km, there was no environment clearance needed.

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“Each project is independent, having distinct start and end points which are important places on these Highways. There was no requirement for Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) for these projects,” Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari said in Rajya Sabha in response to a question from Rashtriya Janata Dal MP, A.D. Singh.

The Char Dham project envisages all-weather connectivity to four major pilgrimage sites in Uttarakhand - Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamunotri and Gangotri. In February 2018, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved the construction of 4.531 km long 2-lane bi-directional Silkyara -Barkot tunnel at a total project cost of ₹1,383.78 crore.

The Minister added that under the directions of Supreme Court, the Ministry of Environment has constituted a High-Powered Committee comprising representatives from the Wildlife Institute of India, Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Central Soil Conservation Research Institute, National Institute of Disaster Management, Forest Research Institute. The committee is mandated to consider the impact of Char Dham Projects on the entire Himalayan valleys and give directions to conduct environment impact assessment (EIA) and rapid EIA.

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