Uttarakhand News

Char Dham highway project is useless: Geologist KS Valdia

PM Modi’s ambitious Char Dham project could turn into an major faux paus for the government, warns renowned geologist KS Valdia. The 889-km highway project that will connect four major pilgrimage sites (Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri) has been planned out at the regulatory floodway of the Ganga basin of the Ganga valley, points out Valdia. Padma Shree recipient geologist was present at the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology to deliver his presentation related to lessons learnt post 2013 Kedarnath floods.

The state had witnessed floods in the past. It is, therefore, not a wise idea to have a project close to the floodway but this is what exactly happening in Uttarakhand. Without treating the root cause of the problem the planners will lead to nowhere.

– KS Valdia, geologist

A regulatory floodway is the river channel and adjacent flood plains that must be kept free of encroachment so that the 1% flood discharge can be conveyed without increasing the base flood elevation more than a specified amount. A construction close to the floodway could be an alarming situation as the region is prone to floods and landslides. 

The foundation stone of the Char Dham project was laid last year in the presence of PM Modi and Union road transport & highways minister Nitin Gadkari. The project worth Rs. 12,000 would consist of 15 big and 101 small tunnels, 3596 watercourse and 12 bypass roads. It was one of the major poll promise during the 2017 Uttarakhand elections that brought BJP into power.

More than 33,000 tress to be axed for the project

For alignment of the Char Dham highway, around 33,000 trees will be cut down in various district of Uttarakhand. Around 18,000 trees will be axed in the Narendra Nagar forest division along Rishikesh-Badrinath national highway and 7,000 trees in the Rudraprayag forest division. In the Badrinath region, it is estimated that around 5,000 trees will be cut down for the project.

In defence, Conservator (forests) of the Garhwal region, AK Rastogi believes adequate reforestation will be done as per the norms. “Trees have to be cut for development works. But we do it after a long process. For instance, we plant 200 saplings if we cut 100 trees in a bid to maintain the green cover,” says Rastogi.

Inputs from Hindustan Times