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Must have balanced approach on environment and defence: SC on appeal opposing Char Dham project
Char Dham highway project
Image Credit: Anurag Beniwal via unsplash

Must have balanced approach on environment and defence: SC on appeal opposing Char Dham project

| @indiablooms | 10 Nov 2021, 12:24 am

New Delhi/IBNS: In response to an appeal filed by an NGO against the widening of the roads in Uttarakhand for Centre's Char Dham project, the Supreme Court said Tuesday that the defence needs and environmental safeguards have to be balanced and a "nuanced" approach is required, media reports said.

The Centre has 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", an NDTV report said.

"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.

Centre has also announed the "Char Dham" highway project that 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.

Senior lawyer Colin Gonsalves representing the NGO Citizens for Green Doon 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.

He also pointed out the top court's decision to stop 24 projects, taking cognizance of the issue after cloudburst in 2013. 

However, 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

"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.

The rampant developmental projects have also contributed to the rapid melting of the glaciers.

"Can we say that environment will triumph over the defence of the nation? Or we say that defence concerns be taken care of so that environmental degradation does not take place," said Justice Chandrachud.

Justice Surya Kant asked Gonsalves if he could provide any reports on the impact on Himalayas on the other side of the border where the Chinese have allegedly constructed buildings and establishments.

"The Chinese government is not known for protecting the environment. We will try and see if we can get any reports on what is the situation there," Gonsalves said.

The next hearing in the case is on Wednesday.







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