Friday, February 3, 2023

Char Dham highway project: Centre seeks Supreme Court nod to widen road to 10 metres, cites China border dispute

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The Centre sought permission of the Supreme Court to widen the road leading to the India-China border by 10 metres, saying that there is a need for widening of the roads due to the border dispute with China.

During a hearing of a petition against the widening of roads in the Char Dham highway project before the three-judge bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud, Surya Kant and Vikram Nath, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the Central government, said the road leading to the China border needs to be widened from 5.5 metres to 10 metres, in view of the circumstances, if there is a need to carry heavy military load, then they can be taken.

The AG further submitted that the distance of feeder roads from border roads is there in the application. Char Dham roads connect four places of worship for Hindus. The petition sought to broaden the road and the buses could cross each other. There are seven projects that lead to international borders which are needed for Army movements.

There is a need for armed forces vehicles, rocket launchers etc to travel on these roads and all this was not taken into account. The Army was ignored in this matter and the Army’s needs need to be presented here before the court, the AG added.

The Court said that it cannot ignore the security concerns. “We also have to take into account the incidents on the border in the recent past. We cannot ignore the defence requirements.”

Recent developments by China cannot be ignored. The reason for the melting of glaciers is not only due to the construction or widening of roads, but also the carbon footprint is one of the reasons, the Court observed

Justice Chandrachud asked the counsel for the petitioner that if he had any information about the construction on the other side of the border? At the same time, the court also asked the petitioner whether we would like the situation of 1962 to come again?

During this, the AG told the court that till now most of the places like Taglang La and Kang La Pass have unpaved roads and there are no complete roads.

Appearing for the NGO, Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves, said the Indian Army was only following the whims of the political establishment and was really happy with the existing roads that connect the pilgrimage to the Char Dham.

Gonsalves also said that the road connecting all the four dhams i.e. Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath will be developed and wants to make the Hindu pilgrimage easier by making a 900-km road.

The Himalayas have physical restrictions and you cannot do something that causes it to crash. Expert study has suggested that such vehicles going up and down are impacting the glaciers and there is catastrophe after catastrophe, Gonsalves alleged.

Justice Chandrachud said, “We cannot dispute that these are feeder roads. The border roads need to be upgraded. We cannot ignore the safety concerns”.

The Apex Court was hearing a plea filed by NGO Citizens for Green Doon seeking direction to stop felling of trees without clearance on the Ganeshpur-Dehradun Road (NH-72A), which is a part of the Delhi-Dehradun expressway. The hearing will be continued tomorrow.

Case Name- Citizens for Green Doon and Ors. vs Union of India and Ors.

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