Amid concerns over the proposed Chardham project, a senior government official on Wednesday termed allegations that road construction triggered landslides in Uttarakhand as “spurious and counter productive” to the national causes, and asserted that geology of the area is fragile.

Union Road Secretary Giridhar Aramane said the government’s aim is to provide connectivity to remote areas and it is yet to be scientifically established that the Chardham project has resulted in landslides and flash floods in the area.

Last week, the Supreme Court reserved its verdict on pleas with respect to the ambitious project. The strategic 900 kilometres-long Chardham project worth 12,000 crore aims to widen roads and provide all-weather connectivity to four holy towns — Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath — in Uttarakhand.

Aramane cited reports of the Geological Survey of India (GSI) and other organisations to emphasise that road construction was not the reason for any of the landslides in Uttarakhand.

“The area is generally prone to landslides, even where there is no road… geology of the area is so fragile that there is no need for any external provocations. Internal forces, plate movements itself causes enough landslides in that areas,” he said.

In an interview to PTI, Aramane said the objective of the government’s project is to connect the remote areas and the border areas with good roads where the armed forces can reach.

“… it is a strategic necessity and necessity for taking care of our own people, Indians living in the remote areas. So the allegation that highway construction is causing landslides is both spurious as well counter productive to the national causes,” he said.

His remarks also come against the backdrop of concerns about ecological issues expressed in certain quarters on the widening of the road for the Chardham project.

Last week, a bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Surya Kant, and Vikram Nath, reserved its verdict on a plea of the Ministry of Defence to modify its earlier order and a plea of an NGO ‘Citizens for Green Doon’ against the widening of the road.

The apex court was hearing the Centre’s plea seeking modification of the September 8, 2020 order, which had asked the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) to follow the 2018 circular stipulating carriageway width of 5.5 metre on the Chardham highway project, which goes up to the China border.

The Ministry of Defence has sought a modification of the order and directions that the national highways from Rishikesh to Mana, from Rishikesh to Gangotri, and from Tanakpur to Pithoragarh may be developed to two-lane configuration. PTI BKS RAM

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