Amid concerns over reported Chinese military build-up across the Line of Actual Control (LoAC), the union government has backed the ambitious Char Dham road project, saying that wider roads are needed to transport missiles like the BrahMos and other military equipment.
The strategic 900-km-long Char Dham project worth Rs 12,000 crore aims to provide all-weather connectivity to four holy towns Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath in Uttarakhand.
The court on 11 November heard the union government’s plea seeking modification of the 8 September 2020 order, which had asked the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) to follow the 2018 circular stipulating carriageway width of 5.5 m on the ambitious Char Dham highway project, which goes up to the China border.
The union government told the apex court that if the Indian Army could not move its missile launchers, heavy machinery upto the northern Indo-China border, it will be difficult to defend the country in the eventuality of a war.
Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for union government, said “These are inhospitable terrains where the army needs to move heavy vehicles, machineries, weapons, missiles, tanks, troops and food supplies. Our BrahMos missile is 42 feet long and needs large vehicles to carry its launchers. If the Army cannot move its missile launchers and machineries upto the northern China border, then how will it fight a war, if it breaks out”.
He said, “God forbid, if the war breaks out, how will the army deal with it if it does not have its weapons? We have to be careful and on guard. We are to remain prepared. Our Defence Minister attended Indian Road Congress and had said that the Army needs disaster-resilient roads”.
“We need to ensure that all the facilities which are needed by the army are provided. We cannot raise our hands and say that our roads are of 5.5 m width and, therefore, our Brahmos launchers cannot go up the hill. There are huge Tatra trucks, tanks, and other smerch multiple rocket launchers which need to go up the hill,” he said.
Venugopal said that appropriate studies have been undertaken including geological surveys, morphology, and human activities in the vulnerable areas and steps like slope stabilisation, afforestation, scientific muck disposal have been undertaken.
“Landslides can happen anywhere in the country even where there is no road activity but mitigation steps which are necessary are undertaken. Our roads need to be disaster resilient. There are specialised protection measures undertaken in the vulnerable areas, where frequent landslides occur and heavy snowfall blocks the road,” he said.