Nearly 900 km of roads are to be built to provide round-the-year connectivity to the famed Himalayan temples of Uttarakhand as part of the project whose foundation stone was laid by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2016.
While two scientists of the panel set up to look into environmental aspects of the project warned that excavations are being done in an unscientific way, its chairman said the implementing agencies including the Public Works Department, National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited and Border Roads Organisation are doing their job in a highly irresponsible manner.
"They have ignored our suggestions on identifying vulnerable slopes, doing hill cutting after making proper arrangements for dumping the muck, building footpaths and planting trees along the roads that fall under the project," Ravi Chopra, chairman of the panel said.
The hill cutting on the slopes is being done irresponsibly with the muck rushing down into forests, fields and houses in the absence of a proper disposal mechanism, he said.
The committee has submitted its recommendations to the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF), Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) and the Supreme Court in July to rectify the mistakes being committed in implementing the project.
"Excavations under the project are being done in an unscientific way without taking into consideration the geological constraints of the mountainous terrain," Navin Juyal, a geologist and member of the committee told PTI.
"If slopes were excavated to this extent it would destabilise the entire valley which is already vulnerable to natural disasters like earthquakes, flashfloods and cloudbursts," he said.
"The manner in which the project is being implemented by ignoring suggestions made by experts on the basis of the topography and fragile ecology of the region, it will surely turn into a Himalayan blunder," Juyal warned.
Instead of a disaster-resistant road providing round-the year connectivity to Char Dham yatris, a disaster prone road is being built in the name of the all-weather road with the creation of as many as 107 new landslide zones, he said.
He named at least four chronic landslide zones created as a result of the unscientific manner in which the excavations are being carried out including Banswada in Mandakini valley, Kunjapur near Rishikesh, Tharasu near Srinagar and Gadora near Pipalkoti.
Juyal said according to an official estimate at least 50,000 trees have already been felled to implement the project.
Another major lacuna is that it has has been divided into 53 small segments to skip the Environmental Impact Assessment study which is mandatory for any project measuring 100 km and above, Juyal said.
Juyal and Hemant Dhyani, another scientist part of the panel raised concerns in a 59-page report submitted to the MoEF a couple of months back under the title -- ''A Different View: A Himalayan Blunder''.
The truth is that all the four valleys can be encompassed within a circle of 50 km radius, they said.
The report says no thought seems to have been given to the variety of wildlife of the region who will lose their habitat with the implementation of the project.
The report has recommended to avoid the ''double lane with paved shoulder'' configuration and adopt the intermediate lane standard for upgradation of highways. They have also recommended that a 5 feet wide, raised, ''ASTHAPATH'', path for walking pilgrims and locals should be a part of the roadway width.
Current EIA notification, MoEF, should be reviewed for hilly terrain, such that any road construction, including untarred, over 5 km requires an EIA, the report recommended.
A detailed carrying capacity study of all the Char Dham Valleys needs to be conducted by a reliable and independent body, it said.
In the final note of their report Juyal and Dhyani said, "In view of the above we request the Hon Supreme Court to take the final decision on road width parameter for the Char Dham Pariyojana."
The Char Dham all-weather road project is a programme of the MoRTH to widen 889 km of highways connecting Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, Badrinath and the Tanakpur-Pithoragarh stretch of the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra route. PTI ALM
Disclaimer :- This story has not been edited by Outlook staff and is auto-generated from news agency feeds. Source: PTI