NGO seeks environment impact assessment of all-weather roads
A non-government organisation, Citizens for Green Doon (CFGD), on Tuesday submitted a public interest litigation (PIL) to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) demanding an environment impact assessment (EIA) of all-weather roads connecting the Char Dhams in Uttarakhand.
After submission of the PIL, the tribunal has stayed the cutting of trees along the Chardham yatra route.
The NGO has attached views of two experts with the plea. The experts are Ravi Chopra, who earlier headed the Supreme Court-appointed committee on the impact on hydropower projects post-Kedarnath tragedy and Navin Juyal, an Ahmedabad-based researcher.
The report by one of the experts alleged that the all-weather road project was divided into parts to avoid environment assessment. “Though a total of 900 km road length is to be widened along the Char Dhams route, it appears that in order to avoid the environmental clearance, very tactfully the roads have been segmented into stretches of less than 100 km, which according to present regulations do not require environmental impact assessment (EIA),” stated the report.
Explaining the fact, Chopra said, “The state falls in active seismic area frequented by innumerable earthquakes of varying magnitude, as a consequence, the rocks are highly fractured and fissile.”
“The mountains may appear solid, but are weak from inside because of the seismic activity,” he added.
He said the receding glaciers leave behind debris, which is washed by rainfall into the valley. This leads to blocking of the dams and the continuous process result in tragedy like that of Kedarnath in 2013.
“Given the above scenario, the extreme sensitivity of the slopes in the area demands a careful investigation of road widening efforts. The haste with which the road widening and tree cutting is taking place may be catastrophic, if there are intense rainfall events in coming months,” he added.
Himanshu Arora of CFGD said that their organisation is not against development. “But how can the government take up ₹12, 000 crore projects without doing baseline survey and studies,” he asked.
All-Weather Road is an ambitious project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The hearing in the case is scheduled on April 19.