Aseem Shrivastava: An Age gone blind // Mallika Bhanot - Char Dham Pariyojana: A High Risk Engineering Exercise

A strange fact has baffled naturalists recently. Rhododendrons and Himalayan daisies have been flowering in Ramgarh in the freezing winter of January, normally a snow-bound month of the Himalayan calendar. It has been one of the warmest winters in Uttarakhand. Ramgarh (at 2,100 metres) received half-a-dozen snowfalls during the winter of 2019-20. This season (and for many years before 2019), it did not get any snow till a minor snowfall earlier this month. Hence, the early arrival of spring.

Barely a week after a student of mine living in Kumaon sent the images of the January rhododendrons and daisies to me, news arrives of the Chamoli catastrophe. All prima facie evidence suggests that deforestation, climate change and the winter warming of the Himalayas, much more than in other mountain regions of the world, is a large part of the story.

Nowadays, one is reduced to the absurdity of prophesying the past. Ecological history keeps repeating itself every decade, every year, every month now - without in the least changing the minds of the blind men in office, solipsistically intoxicated as they are with the fantasy of what they regard as the vintage wine of their patriotic faith, vikas (development). It is hoary wisdom, truer than ever now, that the one lesson history teaches is that men refuse to learn from it....

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Mallika Bhanot - Char Dham Pariyojana: A High Risk Engineering Exercise

On 8 September, the Supreme Court of India struck a blow for the protection of Uttarakhand’s Himalayan terrain when it rejected an environmentally disastrous design for the Indian government’s prestigious Char Dham Pariyojana.

The Rs 12,000 crore Char Dham Pariyojana aims to “improve the connectivity to the Chardham pilgrimage centres in the Himalayas, making journey to these centres safer, faster and more convenient.” It will widen almost 890 km of highways connecting the pilgrimage sites of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, Yamunotri; and the Tanakpur-Pithoragarh stretch of National Highway (NH) 125, a part of the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra route. On a fast track schedule to be completed by December 2021, it has evaded mandatory environmental scrutiny, despite proposing to destroy about 690 hectares of forests with 55,000 trees and to evacuate an estimated 20 million cubic metres of soil.

The Supreme Court was deciding on an application by the chairman of a High-Powered Committee (HPC) appointed by it in August 2019 to review the Pariyojana….

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