Char Dham road project: Restoration plan for damaged Himalayan slopes sought
Supreme Court has ordered that the construction of the Char Dham road project should be done according to the 2018 circular of the ministry of transport and highways.Updated: Sep 20, 2020, 15:13 IST
A week after Supreme Court said the Char Dham road project will be carried out according to the 2018 circular of the ministry of road transport and highways (MoRTH), the chairperson of the SC appointed high-powered committee (HPC) has now written to the ministry asking it to submit a work plan for a sustainable restoration of damaged Himalayan slopes under the project.
Sources in the HPC privy to the matter said the letter has been written by Ravi Chopra, chairperson of HPC to the regional head of MoRTH on four points, including the formation of a comprehensive work plan to comply with the SC order.
“We have asked them to submit the rapid environmental assessment report so that a comprehensive view can be taken on how to protect the Himalayas. Secondly, we have asked them to submit a full inventory of the vulnerable slopes and muck dump by September 25. This inventory has to be put in the public domain according to the Supreme Court’s original order (August 2019),” said a senior member of the HPC, who did not wish to be named.
The senior member further said, “We have also written for the submission of a work plan by September 29, for sustainable restoration of the damaged slopes and authorised muck dump sites. This also has to be put in the public domain. Fourth is, submission of a comprehensive plan to bring the Char Dham Pariyojana in compliance with the SC’s direction that it will follow MoRTH’s 2018 circular.”
VS Khaira, chief engineer, regional office of MoRTH Uttarakhand and project in-charge of Char Dham road project, confirmed that the chairperson of the HPC has written to them.
“We have been asked to submit a comprehensive work plan on how to comply with the Supreme Court’s order and we have started working on it. We are re-working with all the agencies involved and we will send a plan to the HPC at the earliest. To mitigate the environmental damages already done, we will look into the stability of slopes to understand what treatment needs to be undertaken for slope stability,” said Khaira.
Khaira said the work has been completed on over 350 km of road, adding that the road width of the completed stretch is 12 metres. He added that work is underway for over 600 km of road, with different stretches being at different stages, some at the hill cutting stage and others where work has to be started from scratch.
Hearing the matter on September 8, the SC ruled that the width of the Char Dham road shall not exceed the 5.5 metres that the Union road transport and highways ministry specified in 2018 for under-construction roads in mountainous terrains. It referred to the fragility of the hilly terrain and the impact of the road width on the Himalayan ecosystem while issuing the order.
A March 23, 2018 circular of the MoRTH with the subject “Standards for Lane width of national highways and roads developed under Central Sector Schemes in Hilly and Mountainous terrains”, states, “The carriageway width shall be of intermediate lane configurations, i.e. of 5.5 m width with two-lane structures”.
Meanwhile, the 150 km long stretch from Tanakpur to Pithoragarh of the Char Dham project, the only part in the Kumaon region, has been constructed with a road width of 12 meters based on a 2012 circular of MoRTH.
“We had already cut the road according to the 2012 circular of MoRTH and constructed accordingly, but now work on the project will be done according to the SC’s ruling,” said LD Mathela, executive engineer of National Highway and in charge of the road.