Pilgrimage to Char Dham is likely to become a lot safer and comfortable as the government has set out to widen the existing, geometrically deficient 900-km highway connecting the four abodes of Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath in the Himalayas at an investment of Rs 12,000 crore.
Apart from widening, the road transport and highways ministry plans to improve the stretches to two-lane carriageway with paved shoulders, protect landslide hazard zones, construct bypasses, long bridges, tunnels and elevated corridors to ensure safety for the users.
The cost would include civil construction as well as land acquisition, forest clearance and utility shifting. Work on the project amounting to Rs 2,000 crore has already been started under the Char Dham programme, particularly on the stretches which are free from encumbrances, minister for road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari said on Monday.
“The entire project is likely to be completed by 2018,” Gadkari said, adding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on Tuesday lay the foundation stone of the Chardham Mahamarg Vikas Pariyojna at Parade Ground in Dehradun.
The highway network along Char Dham got severely devastated following the cloudburst in 2013. Assuming charge, the Modi-led dispensation decided to upgrade the national highways network in the upper Himalayan region.
The roads leading to Gangotri and Badrinath are also equally important from a strategic point of view as these roads are used for supply and deployment to the defence establishments along the Indo-China border areas in Uttarakhand.
Gadkari said priority has been given to work like landslide protection as they are affecting the lives of pilgrims visiting these shrines. The completion of the project is also expected to boost the tourism-based economy of the state.