In News: Supreme Court has cleared decks for Chardham highway project, which will connect four holy places of Uttarakhand through 900 km all-weather roads.

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  • An apex court bench ordered the Ministry of Environment and Forests to form a high-powered committee (HPC).
  • The committee will consider cumulative as well as independent impact of the Chardham project on entire Himalayan valleys.
  • The committee will also give directions to conduct Environmental Impact Assessment by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
  • The court was hearing a plea by NGO Citizen for Green Doon against the National Green Tribunal’s September 26 2018 order giving its conditional approval to the connectivity project in view of larger public interest.

About Chardham Highway Project:

  • The project involves developing and widening 900-km of national highways connecting the holy Hindu pilgrimage sites of; Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri at an estimated cost of Rs.12,000 crores.
  • The highway will be called Char Dham Mahamarg (Char Dham Highway) and the highway construction project will be called Char Dham Mahamarg Vikas Pariyojana (Char Dham Highway Development Project).
  • The roads will be widened from 12m to 24m and the project will involve construction of tunnels, bypasses, bridges, subways and viaducts.

About Chardham Pilgrimage:

  • The Char Dham ("four abodes") is a set of four pilgrimage sites in India. 
  • Vaishnavite Hindus believe that visiting these sites helps achieve "Moksha" (salvation).
  • The Char Dham as defined by Adi Shankaracharya consists of four Hindu pilgrimage sites i.e Badrinath (Uttarakhand), Dwaraka (Gujarat), Puri (Odisha) and Rameswaram (Tamil Nadu). 
  • It is considered by Hindus that every Hindu must visit the char dhams during one's lifetime. 

Another small circuit in Uttarakhand of four pilgrimage sites-Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath is referred to as Chota Char Dham .