Environment

Halt Char Dham project, environmentalists petition Modi

A view of the Badrinath Temple. The project is an attempt to improve access to pilgrimage spots in Uttarakhand.   | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

A group of 40 scientists, environmentalists and ecologists have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding a halt to the Chardham road construction work and that the recommendation of environmentalist Ravi Chopra, who heads a Supreme Court-appointed committee to advise on the sustainable execution of the project, be heeded.

Chardham project: Supreme Court panel split on width of access roads

The Chardham Project (CP) is an ambitious attempt by the Modi government to widen nearly 900km of hill road to improve access to pilgrimage spots in Uttarakhand.

The High Powered Committee (HPC), as it is called, was chaired by Mr. Chopra, former director of the People’s Science Institute and the SC directed it to submit a report by December 30, 2019, which was extended to June 30 this year.

However what emerged from the exercise were two reports — one by Mr. Chopra and three other members called the ‘Main’ report, and another by 16 members — the majority — of the 19-member core committee. The key difference is that the “Main report” recommends a narrower road width than the majority group.

The significance of the Char Dham board verdict

As The Hindu had previously reported, Mr. Chopra denounced the report sent by the other members, and, in a letter to the Union Environment Ministry Secretary said he was “pressured and harassed to submit a one-sided view,” by certain members. Most of the members of the ‘majority’ group are affiliated to the Uttarakhand government or Central Ministries, whereas three of the four members who have signed on the ‘Main’ report are independent experts.

The Saturday letter that comes ahead of a Supreme Court hearing on Monday says the majority committee members were “mis-using their membership to further an unfeasible agenda that wasn’t in the public interest”. The Chairman’s recommendations, they opine, had left the final decision on the road width to the Supreme Court and adheres to the “mandate of protecting the Himalayas”.

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Printable version | Oct 24, 2020 12:16:21 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/halt-char-dham-project-environmentalists-petition-modi/article32475797.ece

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