New Delhi, Oct 5 (PTI) The National Green Tribunal has cleared the ‘Chardham Mahamarg Vikas Pariyojna’, which proposes to provide all-weather connectivity to four holy towns of Uttarakhand, but formed a committee to monitor the project.
The green panel said it was inclined to clear the project — for connecting Yamnotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath — with requisite safeguards in view of the larger public interest and the country’s security in the construction of highway.
“We are of the view that all environmental concerns can be addressed by having a responsible and independent oversight mechanism which may monitor the environmental safeguards during the execution of this project,” the bench, headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, said in an order on September 26.
The bench, also comprising Justices Jawad Rahim and S P Wangdi, made it clear that statutory environmental impact assessment under the Environment Protection Act, 1986 was not required in view of exemption granted through notification dated August 22, 2013.
The bench constituted a committee headed by former Uttarakhand High Court Judge Justice U C Dhyani to oversee the implementation of Environment Management Plan (EMP) of the project.
The committee also comprises representatives of the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, National Institute of Disaster Management, Central Soil Conservation Research Institute, G B Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment, Forest Research Institute, secretary of Environment and Forest Department and District Magistrates concerned.
The tribunal noted that structural stability of muck-dumping sites was not satisfactory and there was possibility of some caving in during excessive landslides and other natural disasters.
“Therefore, stabilizing such sites with Gabion wall/crate wires at places where load is less seems to be adequate but in high load bearing sites, augmented RCC structures followed by strengthening by way of grids through engineering and bio-engineering methods would stabilize such sites.
“State government to also notify Debris Dumping Policy which includes details of environmental restoration and restitution. The Committee shall also look into disaster management and disaster preparedness measures,” the bench said.
The NGT directed the authorities to devise a mechanism to provide pedestrian pathways for devotees who undertake to do ‘padyatra’ to the religious places viz Yamnotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath.
“The Uttarakhand Chief Secretary, state administration and the project proponent to ensure that no roadside restaurants, dhabas and roadside amenities etc. come up along the expanded road width except at designated places and if need be, the project proponent acquire such land parcels along the road width so that no such road side dhabas come up at the later stage.
“The administration to also ensure that at appropriate locations, additional parking facilities and wayside amenities are provided for tourists. They shall ensure that all the encroachments along entire road length of the Chardham Project are removed and report in this regard be submitted to tribunal,” the bench said.
It also asked them to devise a policy whereby diesel vehicles which are more than 10 years old and petrol vehicles which are over 15 years old are prohibited to ply along the entire road length of the project.
“The Chief Secretary, Uttarakhand and the Uttarakhand Administration shall devise a policy by way of introduction of E-vehicles and CNG buses in a time bound manner,” the bench said.
The Chief Secretary and state administration shall undertake appropriate landscaping and develop bio-diversity parks on the muck-dumping sites along the Chardham Project, the tribunal said.
The green panel’s verdict came on petitions filed by NGOs Citizens for Green Doon and Common Cause and others, saying that the environment clearance was must for executing the project and the ongoing work was “blatantly illegal”.
Advocate Gaurav Bansal, appearing for the NGO Common Cause, had contended that the debris generated during construction of road under the Chardham project along NH 108, was being directly thrown along the slopes next to the road which slides down directly into the river.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.