UTTARAKHAND: GREENS SEE RED
An estimated 33,000 trees, including some of the oldest coniferous deodars in Uttarakhand, are being marked for felling to make way for the Char Dham Mahamarg Vikas Pariyojana—an all-weather highway for which Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone in Dehradun last December.
The Rs 12,000 crore project, being executed by the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (NHIDCL) and Border Roads Organisation (BRO), is meant to enable seamless, year-round road connectivity to the Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamunotri and Gangotri shrines as well as Tanakpur. It includes seven stretches of national highways 58, 108, 109 and 125, adding up to some 900 kilometres. Uttarakhand forest department documents reportedly say that close to 19,000 trees will be cut just along the RishikeshBadrinath section in the Narendranagar forest division.
In May, the National Green Tribunal had issued notices to the Union ministries for environment and forests and road transport, Uttarakhand government, NHIDCL and BRO on a petition claiming the project violated the Bhagirathi Eco-Sensitive Zone notification. In response, the BRO submitted an affidavit that the proposed highway would be of strategic importance because of proximity to the China border and that it was imperative to improve the roads to move heavy artillery and other weapons in case of aggression. The BRO’s counsel also assured the NGT that every tree marked for felling would be reviewed in consultation with the state forest department.
Responding to an india today query, a senior aide quoted Uttarakhand chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat as saying: “Development projects have to be undertaken.” He also cited Rawat’s lead in overseeing the plantation of 10 million saplings across the state’s hills this monsoon. Dehradun-based environment activist Anil Prakash Joshi says the government must make public a blueprint of the Char Dham project. “The Himalayas are an ecologically sensitive zone. Development plans must be ecologically inclusive,” he says.
33 THOUSAND trees face the axe for the proposed all-weather Char Dham highway
On way to the Kedarnath shrine