The Chardham highway project connecting four pilgrimage towns of Uttarakhand is extremely important from a strategic point of view as it is close to the China border, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has told the National Green Tribunal. The BRO said the improvement of the national highway will facilitate better connection with India-China border roads. However, all possible precautions will be taken to ensure that stability of mountain does not get disturbed in the process. “The road is extremely important from strategic point of view, as it is in close proximity to the China border. Moreover, defence preparedness will get adversely affected in case the roads are not improved as per the requirement of defence forces. “In the eventuality of any aggression, movement of heavy weapons, plants and equipments, artillery guns etc. would not be possible in case roads are not improved,” the BRO said. The submissions were made in an affidavit filed before the tribunal in response to a plea filed by Birendra Singh Matura and others alleging that the road widening work to connect Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamunotri and Gangotri in Uttarakhand was being carried in violation of the Bhagirathi Eco Sensitive Zone Notification. It had claimed there was continuous blasting of mountains and dumping of debris in the river Ganga in the stretch of NH-34 between Gangotri and Bhaironghati. In the 12-page affidavit, the BRO said that at present marking of trees has been done between Bhaironghati to Jhala bridge (approximate length of 21 km) by national highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL).
It assured the NGT that only approved number of trees will be cut in the road widening process and it would review the marking of tress done by NHIDCL in consultation with forest department. On May 4, the green panel issued notices to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Ministry of Road Transport, NHIDCL, BRO and Uttarakhand government on the plea. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December last year had laid the foundation stone for 900-km-long Chardham highway development project to be built with an investment of Rs 12,000 crore in Uttarakhand.