'Govt sensitive about environment': Nitin Gadkari on concerns over Char Dham project
New Delhi/IBNS: Allegations that road construction triggered landslides in Uttarakhand are based on misinformation, Union minister Nitin Gadkari said Wednesday while asserting that the government is sensitive about ecology and environment while carrying out development projects, media reports said.
"Char Dham" highway project will connect the four shrines of Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath in Garhwal Himalayas. It involves the widening of 899-km road which the Centre wants to broaden near Dehradun.
Earlier, the Supreme Court reserved its verdict on pleas by NGO Citizens for Green Doon with respect to the ambitious project.
Gadkari said the pace of highways construction in the country will cross 40 km per day in the current financial year. It touched a record 37 km per day in the financial year 2020-21.
"This is all misinformation (Ye galat prachar hai). Earlier there used to be flash floods and cloud bursts which used to cause damages and deaths," Gadkari, who is known for expressing frank views on any matter, told PTI.
Gadkari underscored that now, the hilly terrains have been secured with the construction of a tunnel (beneath chamba town). "We are being sensitive about ecology and environment while carrying out development projects," he asserted, according to the PTI report.
The Ministry of Defence has sought a modification of the order and directions that the national highways from Rishikesh to Mana, from Rishikesh to Gangotri, and from Tanakpur to Pithoragarh may be developed to two-lane configuration, it added.
Senior lawyer Colin Gonsalves representing the NGO contended that the army never asked for broader roads and it was only someone higher up in the government who said broads roads on the Char Dham route are required and the army merely went along.
The Centre had sought Supreme Court's permission to widen the roads to 10 metres, citing the "tremendous" Chinese troop buildup on the other side, adding that under the circumstances, "wide roads are of strategic importance".
"China is building helipads and buildings on the other side… so trucks carrying artillery, rocket launchers and tanks may have to pass through these roads," Attorney General KK Venugopal had said, representing the Centre.
On November 10, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court noted that "Defence concerns cannot be over-ridden especially in light of border incidents in the recent past. We do not want the troops to be caught in 1962 situation."
However, Justice DY Chandrachud, who was part of the bench noted that both the defence and environment "have to be balanced".
"We must tell you our predicament in this," he said. "If the Centre says they are doing it for tourism, then we understand and we can impose more stringent conditions. But when it is needed to defend the borders then it is a serious predicament and court has to be more nuanced." At such a height the security of the nation is at stake, a fact that the court cannot deny, he said
At such a height the security of the nation is at stake, a fact that the court cannot deny, he said
"Can the highest constitutional court say that we will override the defence needs particularly in the face of recent events especially for environmental concerns -- or should court have more nuanced approach?" he said.