Uttarakhand News

5,000 trees to be cut for Char Dham Highway. Agree or Disagree?

Char Dham Highway widening project – is receiving flak from environmentalists after the news broke that around 5,000 trees have been marked to be cut down in order to widen the existing road that runs from Uttarkashi to Gangotri. A petition has been filed in National Green Tribunal (NGT) against this decision. Earlier in 2012, the central government declared 4179 sq.km area around the entire 100 km stretch of Bhagirathi River including Char Dham as notified eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) from the ecological and environmental point of view.

Read the special report/video from NDTV on this issue.

Fragile ecology at Gangotri

Gangotri glacier is one of the largest glacier in India and is the source of the largest river in India- the Ganges. The Bhagirathi river is rich in aquatic life and is also a primary source of flora and fauna, including migratory birds. Any hindrance in their migration could adversely affect the entire ecosystem. According to the Geological Survey of India, the region is also susceptible to landslides and flash floods. Hence, the felling of 5,000 trees pose a serious threat to the ecology of the region.

A balance between man and nature

While the notification issued by Central Government in 2012 prohibited commercial logging, hydroelectric power plants, mining and quarrying in the region, it allows construction of rural roads as well as highways provided:

  1. proper alignment of roads so as to minimize the loss of forest cover
  2. appropriate road design to avoid unnecessary cutting
  3. proper road signs before the start and end of landslide-prone zones
  4. adequate roadside drains for runaway disposals to keep roads free from blockage
  5. the debris generated is to be utilized in road construction and not to be dumped on slopes

As we can see from the 2012 notification, the central government have stressed on the balance between man and nature. While declaring the region as ESZ, the government has not overlooked the interests of local residents, but instead found a way to stop the harassment of nature in the name of development. The general public should be educated that notified eco-sensitive zone master plan is much more than just felling of trees.

As for the 5,000 trees marked, planting a sapling for each tree that was cut down due to development is one practice that comes to my mind. Not allowing a proper well-planned far-sighted development under the garb of ‘environmental protection’ is not the way to move forward.

Earlier this month, Uttarakhand High Court had declared Ganga and Yamuna as legal entity expressing its concern over environmental issues.

Excepts from the Central Government notification in Gazette of India in December 2012:

Char Dham

Char DhamChar Dham

CLICK HERE to read the details of Eco-Sensitive Zone notification issued by Central Government.