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The chairman of a Supreme Court-appointed expert committee has alleged violations of the court orders in the execution of the Chardham road project — a 900 km, ₹12,000 crore enterprise to connect pilgrimage spots in Uttarakhand.
- A controversial aspect was the proposed width of the two-lane highways envisaged. The SC committee was divided over the width, with one set of members saying that it can only be 5.5 metre wide and another insisting on a higher width.
- The top court ruled recently that a width of 5.5 metre be enforced as it was in conformity with a 2018 recommendation of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) for mountain roads.
- Prior to this, the government had sanctioned a road width of 10-12 metre.
What is the issue?
- The 900 km stretch has been broken up into 53 contracted road projects. About 700 km had already been tendered out this way and work had commenced.
- It is being alleged that MoRTH has allowed the 700 km road projects to continue with the old 10 metre width and only in the remaining 200 km roads would the new narrow width apply. This is a clear contravention of the Supreme Court orders which said that the road width must apply to the entire stretch.
- The petition in the court argues that where hills had already been cut (in the 700 km stretch), space beyond 5.5 metre should be adjusted to make walkways for pilgrims, plantations and safety barriers.
About the ‘Chardham Project’
- The project proposes the widening of single lane roads into double lanes by up to 10 metres (880-km all-weather roads) developing highways in Uttarakhand and thereby improving access to the Char Dham (four shrines) — Yamunotri, Gangotri, Badrinath and Kedar Nath and part of the route leading to Kailash Mansarovar Yatra.
- The total cost of the project is estimated at Rs 11,700 crore.
- The project was earlier scheduled to be completed by March 2020.
- Seven stretches have been identified for development under the Char Dham highway project.
- All of these four sites are devoted to a specific deity. Gangotri is dedicated to the Goddess Ganga, Yamunotri is dedicated to the Goddess Yamuna, Kedarnath is dedicated to Lord Shiva and one of the 12 jyotirlingas is Badrinath, which is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.