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Deadline extended for all-weather road project, Uttarakhand clueless

The deadline for completion of the ambitious all-weather Char Dham road in Uttarakhand has been extended by a year

dehradun Updated: Mar 19, 2018 22:04 IST
Anupam Trivedi
Anupam Trivedi
Hindustan Times, Dehradun
Uttarakhand News
Widening of the Char Dham road in progress.(HT Photo)

The deadline for completion of the ambitious all-weather Char Dham road in Uttarakhand has been extended by a year. The Rs 12,000-crore project, which aims to provide all-weather connectivity between Hindu holy shrines of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri, will now be completed by March 2020.

The earlier deadline for the project, announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, ahead of the 2017 state assembly election, was March 2019. The BJP-led NDA government at Centre wanted the project to be ready before the general elections due next year.

Union minister for road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari had in January this year reviewed the progress of the project and categorically told officials to complete the work on or before March 2019.

However, two months after that meeting, Gadkari’s deputy in the ministry, Mansukh Lal Mandavia told Lok Sabha in a written reply last week that “construction work on the Char Dham project has been started and the project is targeted to be completed by March 2020”.

The foundation stone for the project was laid in December 2016. Under the project, a total of 889 km of national highway leading to Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, Badrinath, and connecting part of Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage route will be developed.

The prime minister’s office has been directly monitoring the project. Between, land acquisition and the felling of trees in huge numbers in the environmentally fragile hills of Garhwal, the project has remained mired in controversies too.

Earlier this month, the National Green Tribunal issued notices to the Centre and the Uttarakhand government asking them to explain why the ongoing work on the project should not be stayed. The NGT notice had come on a plea that alleged that more than 25,000 trees have been chopped over a combined stretch of 356 kms of forest land in complete violation of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and the Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006.

The plea, filed by Dehradun-based NGO Citizens For Green Doon, also claimed that there was no information published for any Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regarding the project and it was nowhere found in the public domain whether the EIA was conducted or not.

The ambitious road would pass through the Eco Sensitize Zone in Bhagirathi valley. The Centre, officials in the know of things, said was mulling a master plan to find out a way to seek clearance for the project.

As part of the project, 15 big bridges, 101 small bridges, 3596 culverts, and 12 bypass roads would be constructed. Besides, 29 landslide zones, falling on the highway, would be treated.

Chief minister Trivendra Singh Monday met officials and enquired about the ongoing works on the project. An official note said he stressed on “completion of the project in due time”. When asked, an official said the deadline is 2019 suggesting the government was unaware of the fresh deadline.

Rawat had last week confirmed that PM Modi was likely to take a physical or virtual tour of the Char Dham road project, in a bid to get the ground report.

First Published: Mar 19, 2018 22:04 IST