Army Needs Wide Roads In Chardham Project Up To China Border, Supreme Court Told

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The Centre Friday told the Supreme Court that its plea seeking recall of an earlier order of the court be urgently heard as Army needs widened roads in the Chardham highway project which goes up to China border due to problems faced there.

The strategic 900-km Chardham highway project aims to provide all-weather connectivity to four holy towns — Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath — in Uttarakhand.

A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and B V Nagarathna was informed by Attorney General KK Venugopal that the Ministry of Defence has filed an application seeking recall of an earlier order.

“We want that application to be heard on urgent basis. Army needs widening of the border roads in northern sector due to the problems there,” Mr Venugopal said, adding that court had earlier said the width should not be more than 5.5 metres.

The bench directed the registry to seek instruction from the Chief Justice of India and list the matter before the appropriate bench along with other petitions.

The top court was hearing a plea filed by an NGO ‘Citizens for Green Doon’ seeking direction to stop felling of trees without clearances on the Ganeshpur-Dehradun Road (NH-72A), which is a part of the Delhi-Dehradun expressway.

The supreme court observed that once forest clearance is given there is no need for separate clearance for tree felling.

Advocate Ritwik Dutta, appearing for the NGO said that the NGT has said that a clearance is required from the competent authority for tree felling and in this case there is no such clearance.

The top court said that the matter will be listed post Diwali break before appropriate bench.

Another counsel appearing for the NGO said that there may have been some confusion as Attorney General may have got confused with the matter as it is the same organisation which has challenged road widening in Chardham Project and the tree felling on Ganeshpur-Dehradun Road which is a different matter.

On September 7, the top court had refused to entertain a PIL filed by the NGO challenging the forest and wildlife clearances given to Ganeshpur-Dehradun Road (NH-72A), which is a part of the Delhi-Dehradun expressway and asked the petitioner to first move the National Green Tribunal with its grievances.

The top court had noted that stage one forest clearance was given in September last year and wildlife clearance was given on January 5, 2021 for a 19.78-km-long stretch of the road from Ganeshpur (in UP) to Dehradun.

Delhi-Doon Expressway will directly connect the two cities after crisscrossing areas like Loni, Baghpat, Shamli, Saharanpur, and Ganeshpur in Uttar Pradesh.

Uttarakhand will have 3.6 kilometres of the expressway while around 16 kilometres will pass through Uttar Pradesh.

Earlier, on May 11, the top court had said that it would hear the matter relating to widening of the Chardham highway project, after the Centre said it involves question of national security as the road goes up to China border.

The Centre, in its affidavit filed earlier in the matter, had urged the top court to accept the majority report of 21-members of the High-Powered Committee (HPC) recommending the road to be developed to two-lane with paved shoulders (10 metre wide carriageway) considering the strategic requirement and snow removal needs.

The HPC is monitoring the Chardham highway project on the widening of roads up to Indo-China border in Uttarakhand.

Earlier, the Ministry of Defence had sought modification of the top court’s September 8 last year order which had asked the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) to follow the 2018 circular stipulating carriageway width of 5.5 metre.

In August, 2019 the top court had cleared the decks for the Chardham highway project by modifying an order of the National Green Tribunal to constitute an HPC to look into environmental concerns.

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