Thursday, July 25, 2024

Environmental Concerns Mount Over Char Dham Project After Silkyara Tunnel Collapse

“In the aftermath of the Silkyara tunnel collapse, the Char Dham Mahamarg Pariyojana faces heightened scrutiny and calls for a reevaluation of its implementation. Ravi Chopra, who resigned as the chairman of the high-powered committee tasked with assessing the project’s impact, brings attention to the broader ecological risks associated with the ambitious undertaking.

Chopra’s concern extends beyond the immediate consequences of the tunnel collapse. He emphasizes the inadequacy of attention paid to the fragility of the Himalayan region, both from geological and ecological perspectives. In the committee’s final report to the Supreme Court in July 2020, they highlighted 35 crucial recommendations, all unanimously made, urging a more comprehensive and ecologically sensitive approach to such projects.

One pressing issue is the lack of consideration for disaster management plans, a fundamental component of any major infrastructure project. The absence of an environmental impact assessment, as Chopra points out, not only compromises ecological sensitivity but also overlooks the need for a robust plan to address potential disasters. The recent tunnel collapse underscores the consequences of such oversights.

The Char Dham project’s impact is not limited to the Silkyara tunnel alone. Chopra draws attention to the existence of many more tunnels, particularly in the Char Dham railway line, suggesting a broader pattern of insufficient geological assessments and rushed implementations across various facets of the project.

Chopra’s resignation from the committee was prompted by the Supreme Court’s decision to disregard recommendations, including those advocating for narrower highways to mitigate ecological impacts. The ongoing widening of highways, as observed by Chopra, exacerbates vulnerabilities, exposes weaknesses, and raises concerns about increased environmental degradation. The widening of roads, especially in eco-sensitive zones, raises questions about the balance between development and ecological preservation.

As Uttarakhand grapples with a series of challenges, including the Silkyara tunnel collapse, the Joshimath subsidence, and flooding, the sentiment among residents is evolving. Chopra suggests that the people of Uttarakhand are becoming more concerned about the cumulative impact of such mega projects on their environment and safety.

In conclusion, the Char Dham Mahamarg Pariyojana faces not only immediate engineering challenges but also profound questions about its environmental sustainability and the well-being of the communities it affects. The incident serves as a stark reminder of the importance of careful planning, adherence to environmental regulations, and community engagement in large-scale infrastructure projects in ecologically fragile regions.”

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