New Delhi, Nov 29 (IANS): While applauding the entire rescue team including the rat miners to bring out 41 trapped workers from Uttarakhand's Silkyara tunnel, the Congress on Wednesday said the incident has also revealed the failure of the environmental appraisal process when it comes to planning, designing and executing civil construction, and other projects in Western Himalayan region.
The Congress also demanded a thorough audit of all projects under implementation and that all future projects in the Himalayan region must be put on hold and have them subject to professional ecological scrutiny.
In a post on X, Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh said, "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."
Highlighting complexity of Western Himalayan region, Jairam Ramesh, who is also a former union minister for environment, said, "The fragility and complexity of the Western Himalayan ecosystem has been brought home to us in a stark manner. 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."
He said, "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! Reports have come on the absence of widely accepted safety features on the tunnel."
The Congress leader said that 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," the Rajya Sabha MP demanded.
He also said that 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 lipservice is being paid to this maxim with disastrous consequences for ourselves," he said.
He also attached a news report with his post on X.
His remarks came a day after all 41 trapped workers from the Uttarkashi's Silkyara tunnel were rescued safely after 17 days of mega operation involving several agencies and experts.
Even the rat miners dug the debris manually to bring out the trapped workers.
Relief and rescue work was carried out by scientists, international experts, NDRF, SDRF and BRO on a war footing.
On November 12, an under-construction tunnel collapsed in Uttarakhand's Uttarkashi leaving 41 workers trapped.