Although environmentalists are upset by the Supreme Court’s decision to allow the Char Dham highway to be extended, the court has balanced national security imperatives with the need for Uttarakhand to preserve and conserve its flora. This judgment comes just a few months after news reports about Chinese army troops crossing Indian territory 50 kilometres in the remote villages of Uttarkashi.
These reports were neither confirmed nor denied by the government. India’s armed forces have been fighting valiantly against an aggressive China for more than one year. Beijing’s expansionist policies led to the Galwan Valley conflict in Ladakh, which saw 20 Indian soldiers and unaccounted Chinese troops killed. Reports also suggest that China has increased its infrastructure in the Doklam region of Bhutan. These national security concerns are the reason that the SC gave the go-ahead for widening roads to allow swift movement of troops in any circumstance.
However, this does not mean that environmentalists’ views are false. It is clear that Uttarakhands forests were purged by greedy developers working in concert with corrupt government officials. Dams, highways and hotels were built without considering their long-term environmental impacts. Global warming has made matters worse, with increasing melting glaciers, lake bursts, and unseasonal rains.
The data compiled by the Uttarakhand Disaster Management Authority are quite telling. Uttarakhand has been witness to more than 10,000 extreme weather phenomena, including rain, cloudbursts, and landslides, from 2015 to June 2021. The court appointed a committee to monitor the concerns raised by the high-powered panel it had earlier established. The committee now has to ensure that all rules and guidelines are followed so that there is no repetition of the Februarys Chamoli disaster, which decimated power plants and villages and left many people homeless.