‘Vital for army’: Centre asks SC to review Char Dham road project order
The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the High Powered Committee (HPC), formed to assess environmental damages to the Char Dham road project, presently under construction, to examine the Centre’s objections against reducing the road width within two weeks.
The 900-km long project will connect four important Hindu pilgrimage sites: Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri, all in Uttarakhand.
On September 8, the apex court upheld the recommendation of the minority members of the HPC and asked the implementing agencies to reduce the width of the road to 5.5m for the whole project. This order was based on a March 2018 circular released by MoRTH laying down guidelines for road construction in hilly terrains in the country.
Both the ministry of defence and road transport have urged the top Court to review its earlier order, citing road safety and requirements of the army.
A three-judge bench, headed by justice RF Nariman, asked the committee to examine all aspects pending before the court in the petition filed by Citizens for Green Doon as well as an application moved by the ministries. In addition, there were two letters addressed to the top court by the HPC chairman, which will also be gone into.
The application by the defence ministry, presented by solicitor general Tushar Mehta, said, “The roads should have capacity to facilitate movement of heavy vehicles carrying troops, self propelled artillery and various machinery required by the army. For this purpose a double lane road having a carriageway width of 7m (or 7.5m where there is a raised kerb) is necessary to meet requirements of the army. The very security of the nation is involved and it has become necessary to seek modification of the September 8 order.”
The road ministry had claimed that a substantial reduction in the width of the road to 5.5m in terms of the 2018 circular at this stage will result in non-uniform carriageway width varying from 10m to 5.5m in short stretches.
“This sudden change in road width in a short road length is not desirable from road users’ safety perspectives and may lead to the formation of black spots and spurt in road accidents,” said the ministry.
The top court asked the committee to supply a copy of its report to ministries and petitioner counsel Colin Gonsalves. The Centre will give its comments on the report and submit an affidavit in court in the third week of January.
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