Government admits to have bypassed environment impact assessments for Chardham project

Project was divided into 53 parts each less than 100 kilometres long, because of which it didn't need environmental impact assessment, says Nitin Gadkari

By Himanshu Nitnaware
Published: Friday 08 December 2023
Source: @pushkardhami / X (formerly Twitter)

The Chardham Mahamarg Vikas Pariyojayana, under which the Silkyara tunnel where 40 workers were trapped for 17 days was being constructed, was passed without necessary evaluation, as revealed by the Centre’s response to a parliamentary query recently. 

Nitin Gadkari, Union minister of road transport and highways, admitted to have bypassed the environmental impact assessment norms for the civil works comprising improvement of five existing national highways from Tanakpur to Pithoragarh section of Kailas-Mansarovar yatra stretching over a length of 825 kilometres.

The project was divided into 53 independent parts, each having a length less than 100 kilometres with distinct start and end points. 

As per the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), expansion of National Highways more than 100 km involving additional right of way or land acquisition greater than 40 m on existing alignments and 60 m on re-alignments or by-passes require prior environment clearances (EC).

“There was no requirement for Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) for these projects,” he said.

Gadkari was answering a parliamentary query raised by Rashtriya Janata Dal MP AD Singh, who asked whether the road project was approved without conducting environmental impact assessment.

The highway minister added that according to the directives of the Supreme Court of India, the MoEFCC has constituted a High Powered Committee (HPC) consisting of representatives from institutes such as Physical Research Laboratory, Wildlife Institute of India, Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Central Soil Conservation Research Institute, National Institute of Disaster Management, Forest Research Institute, MoEFCC officials and others.

The aim is to understand the cumulative and independent impact of Chardham Projects on the entire Himalayan valleys and accordingly issue directions to conduct EIA or Rapid EIA, Gadkari said.

Gadkari further explained that on the intervention of application filed by the Union Ministry of Defence, the Supreme Court on December 14, 2021 permitted widening of the three strategically important National Highways, namely Rishikesh-Mana, Rishikesh-Gangotri and Tanakpur-Pithoragarh under Chardham Pariyojana and make it two-laned with a 10 m wide pavement.

The Supreme Court, he added, has set up an “Oversight Committee” to ensure the implementation of the recommendations given in the report of HPC.

“The HPC continues to oversee the implementation of its recommendations in the remaining stretches of Chardham Pariyojana,” he stated.

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.