The Big StoryDecember 15, 2021
00:17:1915.92 MB

Why the SC Judgement on Char Dham Highway Project is Problematic

How does a tourism infrastructure project suddenly become a concern of the Ministry of Defence in India?

This is the question which every environment activist in the country is asking about the controversial Char Dham Highway Development Project, which has been riddled with ecological violations ever since its construction began in 2016.

The Rs 12,000 crore highway expansion project aims to widen nearly 900 kms of hills in Uttarakhand to provide all weather connectivity to the state’s four major shrines—Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri—all in the upper Himalayas and all in very ecological sensitive zones.

Now, the project from its start had a clear motive to provide easier access to the shrines. But over the years, with each ecological concern raised by activist in the Supremo Court, specifically targeting the petition to widen the roads beyond the Ministry of Roads and Transport 2018 mandate of 5.5 meters, the project has also moved into the ambit of national security.

The Ministry of Defense in an affidavit in 2020 claimed that the roads need to be 7 meter wide to ferry essential arms and ammunition to sensitive border areas, given the rising China threat. And while the Supreme Court noted the environment concerns regarding the project, it agreed to the requirements of “national security,” and essentially, set aside its 2020 judgement where it denied the Ministry of Road and Transport the same thing.

And activists and NGO’s petitioning the widening of the highway project have been baffled by the Supreme Court judgement given that it does provide any credence to what they have been saying for the past few years or the hundreds of landslides which have occurred in the region due to the project.

Guest: Mallika Bhanot, a member of Ganga Ahvaan, a citizen forum working towards conserving the Ganga and the Himalayas

Host and Producer: Himmat Shaligram
Editor: Shorbori Purkayastha

Music: Big Bang Fuzz

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