The central government’s ambitious Char Dham road project — that will link the shrine towns of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri through widening and strengthening of an almost 900km-long stretch of Himalayan roads — is leading to the felling of over 56,000 trees in the ecologically-fragile mountain ranges. Of these, around 36,000 trees have already been felled while the rest are awaiting clearance data has revealed.
The maximum number of trees that are due for felling currently are on National Highway-125, between Tanakpur to Pithoragarh where 6,885 trees are to be felled. The stretch of NH-58 between Rudraprayag and Mana will see 6291 trees being felled. While these are official numbers, those in the know say that the deforestation on the ground may be much more.
Experts point out that the blatant tree felling and slope cutting has already started having a devastating impact on the Himalayan ranges. “Unabated, unaccounted felling of Himalayan trees, which cannot be compensated by planting any other tree at that height and drilling of the mountains without proper measures, are steps that are opening doors for endless new chronic landslide zones,” said geologist Navin Juyal, who is a member of the SC-appointed committee constituted to assess the environmental impact of the project.
Residents , too, since landslide-related accidents on or near the project sites last year alone have claimed around a dozen lives, mostly of workers. Some villagers have also lodged police complaints regarding work being undertaken on the project in an arbitrary manner.