In response to the letter of the High Power Committee Chairman, Ravi Chopra, the Centre clarified that there is no connection between the ongoing Char Dham Road Project and the Uttarakhand Floods in River Rishi Ganga that occurred on 7th February 2021.
“The allegations of the HPC are not correct. I wish to file a response on behalf of the Ministry of Defence,” stated Attorney General K. K. Venugopal, appearing for the Centre.
Accordingly, the Apex Court Bench headed by Justices Rohinton F. Nariman has adjourned the matter for two weeks meanwhile directing the Ministry of Defence to file its response.
The Supreme Court had constituted a High Power Committee in August 2019 to suggest on the proposed Char Dham Project. The Committee too submitted its report in June 2020. However, the submission had two different opinions, one from a majority of members and another from a minority.
The majority group opined that the proposed project should have road cover up to 10 meters following the standards prescribed by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways in 2012. However, the minority opinion favoured prescribing the 2018 guidelines which restricted the cover to 5.5 meters.
When the Committee submitted the report, the Centre welcomed the majority opinion while denying the minority one. “This sudden change in road width in a short road length is not desirable from road users’ safety perspectives and may lead to the formation of black spots and spurt in road accidents,” the Ministry said.
The Char Dham Road Project is an 899 km long highway project that intends to connect Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath in Uttarakhand. The project came under the consideration of the Apex Court following a petition of NGO Citizens for Green Doon that cited environmental concerns.