A day after 41 workers were rescued from the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarakhand, the Congress on Wednesday demanded a thorough audit of all projects under implementation while also calling for putting on hold all future projects in the Himalayan region and subjecting them to professional ecological scrutiny.
Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said while "we salute the rescued workers and applaud the entire rescue team", there should be a reflection on some larger questions thrown up by the tunnel collapse.
"While we salute the rescued workers and applaud the entire rescue team -especially the twelve 'rat-hole' miners who displayed both skill and daring, and who surely deserve a more appropriate name for the work they do -- we should also reflect on some larger questions thrown up by the tunnel collapse," the former environment minister said in a post on X.
The fragility and complexity of the Western Himalayan ecosystem has been brought home to us in a stark manner, he said.
"What has also been revealed is the failure of the environmental appraisal process when it comes to planning, designing and executing civil construction, and other projects in this region. In the Char Dham project for instance, of which the collapsed tunnel was a part, construction works were awarded in a way so as to escape environmental impact assessment altogether!" Ramesh alleged.
Reports have come on the absence of widely accepted safety features on the tunnel, he said.
"The trauma that the 41 workers have had to go through for 17 days should make us pause a bit. A thorough audit of all projects under implementation should be carried out, and all future projects in the Himalayan region must be put on hold and have them subject to professional ecological scrutiny," Ramesh asserted.
"The entry to the office of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change that was inaugurated over a decade back has these words: Prakruti Rakshati Rakshata. This is a simple yet powerful maxim embedded in our civilisational heritage. Sadly only lip service is being paid to this maxim with disastrous consequences for ourselves," he said.
Rescue workers pulled out all 41 workers trapped in Uttarakhand's Silkyara tunnel in a multi-agency rescue operation that hovered between hope and despair for almost 17 days.
A portion of the under-construction on Uttarakhand’s Char Dham route collapsed on November 12, blocking the exit of the workers who were inside.
Food, medicines and other essentials were sent to them through a six-inch pipe pushed through the debris.
Relief was felt far and wide over the safe evacuation.
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