Why in the news?
Recently, the Center has told the Supreme Court that the Army required widened roads in the Char Dham highway project that goes up to the China border.
- The strategic 900-km Char Dham highway project aims to provide all-weather connectivity to four towns - Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath ( in Uttarakhand).
What is the Char Dham Project?
- The Chamba Tunnel constructed by the Border Roads Organization (BRO) under Chardham Project, was inaugurated in 2020.
- The Char Dham project consists of widening and repairing 889-kilometres of national highways leading to revered shrines of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri.
- It is a proposed two-lane express National Highway with a minimum width of 10 meters in the state of Uttarakhand.
- The project includes 900 km national highways will connect whole of Uttarakhand state
Strategic importance of Char Dham project?
- Improvement of the national highway will facilitate better connection with India-China border roads.
- "The road is extremely important from a strategic point of view, as it is in close proximity to the China border.
- If roads are not improved then it would not be possible for the movement of heavy weapons, plants and equipment, artillery guns delivery during the war situation.
- This has been a high-risk approach as it has led to the triggering of a number of major landslides.
- Travelling along the Char Dham routes, it is clear that the Pariyojana has primarily focussed on maximising slope-cutting in the shortest possible time. Tall slopes, sometimes inclined steeper than 45 degrees and at times as high as 60 to 70 m, have been cut.
- There are no essential protection features like catch drains to divert the seepages along the slopes into the nearest natural drainage or stream. Underestimated muck volumes have led to dumping at unauthorized sites, damaging forests and river ecosystems.
- Along NH-94, for instance, 17.3 lakh cubic metres of muck have been generated, almost double that estimated.
- Of the 174 slopes cut in a 160 km stretch on NH-125 between Tanakpur to Pithoragarh, 102 were failures, having turned out to be unstable and prone to landslides.
- These landslides, along with unanticipated volumes of muck generated and dumped at unauthorized locations, risk the loss of forest land beyond that permitted for the project.
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