The Supreme Court on Friday allowed continuation of work on the projects in progress under the Centre's Chardham Mahamarg Vikas Pariyojna plan for connecting four holy towns Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath by an all-weather road. Allowing the continuation of ongoing projects, the bench of Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman and Justice Vineet Saran, however, said the remaining projects will have to undergo the drill of taking environment clearance and public hearing before execution.
The bench told senior counsel Sanjay Parikh, appearing for the NGO Citizens for Green Doon, that the committee set up by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) "may eventually say what you are saying". Pronouncing the order, Justice Nariman said: "No stay of ongoing projects. In the case of other projects, the authorities will follow the drill involving public hearing, environment impact assessment and environmental clearance."
The court also stayed the part of the NGT order which said that different segments of the Chardham project spread over an area of 900 km are exempted from environmental impact assessment and environment clearance in view of the exemption granted through a notification dated August 22, 2013. The NGT, while clearing the Chardham project, had said: "We are of the view that all environmental concerns can be addressed by having a responsible and independent oversight mechanism which may monitor the environmental safeguards during the execution of this project."
Parikh told the court that the NGT, instead of looking the entire project as one whole, viewed it in over 50 segments, which made them appear small projects not necessitating environment clearance or public hearing. He further said that mountains in the region are fragile and if the project is allowed to continue, it would cause irreversible damage to ecology that would be equal to the damage done together by 10 hydropower projects.
(With inputs from agencies.)