Address the environmental concerns

Building highways and widening them is all good, but not at the cost of environment

National Highway-44 is the only route which connects valley with the rest of country. But people living in both regions of J&K have never enjoyed a smooth  journey  on  this  Highway.

Even though Ministry of Transport and Highways is are maintaining the roads and highways for comfortable journey with minimum travel time, but for people of J&K it is still a distant dream.

During this digital world, one has to confirm the status of Highway from traffic Department in the early hours before leaving from home.

Due to absence of proper traffic mechanism and monitoring, it has impacted our ecology and environment too.

Unplanned construction of highways and tunnels has not only put the Chenab Valley in an adverse situation,  but anytime as per experts it can prove hazardous for entire region as J&K has already been  declared seismic zones 4 & 5.

During past six months, numerous earth-quakes have shaken the entire region. Environmentalists believe that construction companies should take every step meticulously and under proper guidance and environment experts.

On  the one-hand construction companies are dumping the debris in Chenab and on the other-side landslide waste directly goes into the river. The issue if not redressed can pollute the river Chenab beyond redemption.

While talking to some prominent environmentalists of the region, they have appealed the concerned departments and agencies to constitute a monitoring committee for supervision of all ongoing projects.

Advocate Nadeem Qadri (Environment lawyer) said that highways should be built for the safety of travellers with protection of environment but our highway is very risky, sometimes resulting in tragic loss of human lives.

On one-side landslide every alternate day, and on the other side mismanagement by Highway Authorities. Compounding the issue is the distressing delay in project execution and a glaring lack of accountability.

These factors have contributed to an additional layer of environment violation in direct contravention of judicial orders issued by the Hon’ble High Court and the National Green Tribunal.

Our primary concern is unchecked dumping of construction waste directly into the pristine waters of River Chenab, a clean violation of environment norms.

Despite frequent review meetings within bureaucratic circles, the anticipated positive outcomes have failed to materialize on the ground. The public continues to bear the brunt of mismanagement as well as the disregard for contractual obligations.

Nadeem demanded an audit of all the activities on National Highway Authority of India (NHAI). Immediate action is necessary as the matter is related with Human lives and Environment of the fragile zone.

The widening of NH-44 is of great importance to make travel easier but it is equally important to monitor regularly the areas of work under expert as we have witnessed that due to mud and rock sliding there is highway blockade for hours, even for days said Faiz Bakshi Convenor Environmental Policy Group (EPG). This frequent closure of National Highway has also impacted our tourism sector.

The prices of essential commodities go up, and there are issues of black marketing too. EPG is of firm belief that supervision of projects, especially the tunnels, by expert environment committee is mandatory.

Massive deforestation and mechanised interference with mountainous region has not only put the entire Chenab Valley in a dangerous position but has impacted other areas too. To avoid disasters like Uttarakhand, administration should take effective and concrete steps.

During widening of National Highway-44, there are also traffic jam and accidents on this road. The highway traffic police is not equipped with modern machinery; they even lack an ambulance for emergency.

Last year fruit laden trucks on highway could not reach fruit mandis due to blockade of National Highway; a huge loss to Horticulture sector. National Highway is a lifeline for J&K especially to the Valley. But while maintaining the highway, we should not disturb the nature.

The author is a Senior Journalist, and a Human Rights Activist.

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