New Delhi. In the matter of expansion and widening of the highway under the Char Dham project in Uttarakhand, the Supreme Court while making important remarks said that the security of the country should not be ignored. Although the court considered that there should be a synergy between the needs of both ‘environment and national security’, but still the court said to give priority to the border security of the country. In fact, during the hearing of a petition, the whole matter turned into Environment vs National Security, in which the central government also took the side and called the roads necessary construction.
What is this whole matter?
Under the Char Dham Highway project, the Center has planned to expand the 899-km-long route connecting Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri by road to connect the Himalayan regions of Garhwal. The Center wants this highway to be widened to 10 meters near Dehradun and the border roads. However, earlier the Supreme Court had allowed widening of roads up to 5 meters only. Here, an NGO ‘Citizens for Green Doon’ challenged the construction of these roads as a threat to the environment. Now the Supreme Court has got three parties in this matter.
After hearing the petition and the sides of the central government, the Supreme Court considered the construction of the road as important for the security of the country.
What are the claims and arguments of the government?
The claims of the government are related to national security regarding the expansion of this highway. In this case, the government says that in the event of war, this route is important for the movement of tanks, weapons, military aid and soldiers till the border. On the other hand, the arguments of the Center are related to the antics of China. Attorney General KK Venugopal told the Supreme Court on behalf of the Center, ‘China is building buildings and helipads on the other side of the border. Weapons from many trucks, rocket launchers and tanks are plying on the roads on that side… We don’t want our soldiers to see a 1962-like situation again.
What are the allegations and arguments in the petition?
On behalf of the NGO, Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves told the court about the recent disaster in Uttarakhand. The court was also informed by quoting reports about the damage being done to the mountains. Then he said, ‘I am not saying that the need for defense can be denied in the name of environment but the army never asked to widen these roads. It was said on behalf of some influential political power that we want big highways for Char Dham Yatra. And the army did not want to participate in this desire.
And what stand did the court take?
Colin also gave arguments in the court about how many projects against the environment were banned after the Uttarakhand disaster of 2013. After this whole debate, the court, while keeping its side, considered the upgradation to be necessary, stating the priority of the defense of the nation. Justice Suryakant also asked Colin what reports he had about the situation regarding the Himalayan environment on the Chinese side. See what the bench of Justice Chandrachud, Justice Surya Kant and Justice Vikram Nath said about something important.
* There should be harmony between the needs of both defense and environment.
* The Center says that all this is happening for tourism, so we can be strict, but when it comes to protecting the borders, then we have to work carefully and closely.
* It cannot be denied that the security of the country is at stake.
* Can it be said that the environment is more important than the defense of the country? Or that the protection measures will not harm the environment?