Uttaranchal HC issues directions to ensure safety of pilgrims of Chardham Yatra and for preservation of environment

Uttaranchal High Court: Last year in November, the High Court issued directions to constitute the Five Special Investigation Teams to trace the dead bodies, lying scattered/buried in the Kedarnath area after the disaster of 2013. It had directed the State government to trace the DNA of all the dead bodies and accordingly inform their families. Along with this, the Court had issued many other directions like State should keep biometrics data of all the tourists/pilgrims by installing biometrics machines, take steps to put restrictions on mass tourism in eco-sensitive zones, to deploy latest machinery in the area to maintain the roads and so on. Keeping in mind the directions, the Chief Secretary of the State of Uttarakhand filed the Affidavit of Compliance before the High Court.

With regard to the compliance with the directions, it has been replied by the respondents that in order to ensure compliance of Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000 in all the towns along the Chardham Yatra route, necessary directions have been issued to the District Magistrates. The Court issued few additional directions to the ones issued last year.

The directions are enumerated as follows:

§ No dumping of garbage on both sides of major rivers as well as their tributaries within a radius of 01 kilometer from the edges of the banks, as the crow flies, within one week.

§ Declare National Parks, including Tiger Reserve, Elephant Reserve, Jim Corbett and Rajaji National Park as Plastic free zones.

§ The state government has been directed to constitute a special cadre of Tiger/Elephant Protection Force in Corbett National Park as well as Rajaji National Park to protect the tigers and elephants from poaching within a period of 3 months from the date of judgment.

§ It was of the view that the forest guards must be equipped with better weapons and directed that the revenue generated by National Parks to be used for their own welfare and must not be diverted to the State government funds.

§ It has advised government to be open to tie-up with the Life Insurance Corporation or any other government-owned life insurance company in order to ensure the pilgrims travelling every year to Chardham. The Division Bnech said that the corpus generated out of LICs is permitted to be used to improve the environment and ecology of the fragile Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath areas/valley.

§ The bench further directed the Distruict Magistrates to to identify the premises, hotels, industries, commercial establishments, Ashrams, Deras etc. which are polluting the rivers by letting untreated sewage into the major rivers and their tributaries within two weeks.

Along with these directions, the Bench comprising of Rajiv Sharma and Alok Sharma, JJ. recognised he right of residents of hilly areas to connectivity as enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of India and ordered that all the roads in hilly areas be metalled so that people can travel easily and rescue operations might reach them in time in case of any natural calamity. Finally, the Court declared that it expects that all the work to be done as directed by it would be completed in time bound manner and disposed of the petition accordingly. [Ajay Gautam v. UPI, MCC 1199/2017 in Writ Petition (PIL) No.85 of 2014, decided on 18.12.2017]

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    Char Dham yatra sounds like a great spiritual excursion to take. Thanks for sharing this great post.

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