Chennai – Salem expressway project is the 277.3 km long 8-lane project. It aims to reduce the travel time between Salem and Chennai. This project is proposed under center’s “Bharatmala Pariyojana” scheme.
- This scheme aimed at construction of about 35000 km of national highways across the country at an estimated cost of Rs. 5,35,000 crore before 2022.
- This programme was aimed at decongesting six national corridors and to develop economic corridors, inter-corridors, feeder corridors and national corridors and also to improve the freight movements in India.
Need for 8-lane expressway:
The two existing highways between Chennai and Salem are 334 km and 353 km long and the proposed expressway would reduce the distance to just 277.3 km. The purpose of this Rs. 10,000 crore project is to cut down travel time between Chennai and Salem.
The project passes through 5 districts:
- The project will cut through farm lands ancestral properties, water bodies and reserve forest in 5 districts.
- Major portion of the project runs through Tiruvannamalai district. It also passes through Kancheepuram, Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri and Salem district.
- Salem (38.03 km)
- Dharmapuri (55.50 km)
- Krishnagiri (4.30 km)
- Tiruvanamalai (123.87 km)
- Kancheepuram (59.27 km)
- The total land acquisition for the proposed alignment is about 2560 hectares.
- Around 859 hectares of land were identified for acquisition in Tiruvannamalai in 79 villages. Of this 712 hectares of private lands and around 125 hectares of government lands.
People’s opposition to this project:
- This project has been facing opposition from a section of locals including farmers, over fears of losing their farm lands.
- Farmers oppose this project because some lands to be acquired are fertile farmlands. Farmers are upset about the compensation.
- Nearly one-fourth of the land owners in Tiruvannamalai are opposing the project.
- Environmentalists were against this project because the project has been proposed through the reserve forest and water bodies.
- Farmers began their fast at Uthamacholapuram in Salem in January, 2019 opposing the eight-lane green corridor project.
Judgement of High Court
- Special bench of the High Court quashed the land acquisition project on April 7, 2019 as the proposed project would have an adverse effect on environment.
- The court restrained the government from forcibly dispossessing the land owners from their properties and not to use police force against the protesting people.
- The Hight Court also ordered return of acquired land to farmers.
Center’s stand on this project:
The center supports this project by stating that,
- This expressway prevents release of around 17 crore kg of carbon dioxide into atmosphere which is equivalent to the effect achieved through 38,000 ha forest area with 75 lakh trees.
- The reduction of carbon dioxide could be achieved by reducing diesel consumption by 10 crore litres per annum.
- Also, the consumption of diesel would come down considerably because of shortening of travel distance between Chennai and Salem by 57 km to 75 km.
- Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari said that the project will be implemented after discussion with farmers. He said that the project will be important for the development of the region. He further said that the rate of land acquisition is increased compared to today’s value.
- The center claims that resorting to brown field development and widening the existing national highways would be more damaging to the environment than green field alignment.
- Because the brownfield alignment would require felling of trees apart from demolishing structures that had come up on both sides of the highways due to urbanization.
- The brownfield development was not resorted because of associated financial and environmental costs.
- The center claims that it may be kindly appreciated that such kind of forest stretches are unavoidable in long linear projects and the authorities will take due care to keep the impact to the barest minimum while finalizing the alignment.
- It assures that due care would be taken to preserve the waterbodies enroute by desilting and deepening them.
State Goverment’s View on this Project:
The state government assures that it will not forcefully take the land away from the occupants of the area. It said that the project is needed for the growth of the western districts and seeks cooperation from the farmers and promises them good compensation.
NHAI appointed feedback Infra Private limited for providing the detailed project report. The report said that the project is socially feasible. It reports that the project is expected to reduce the transportation cost of vehicles by 15 to 20 percent. The project will connect special economic zones and industries among the route. Manufacturing & Agro Sector and allied sectors will get a boost because perishable items can be transported faster.
Judgement of Supreme Court:
- Following the High Court order, the NHAI appealed to Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has refused to grant interim relief to National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).
- The Supreme Court also pointed out errors in the land acquisition process.
Merits of this Project:
- It will be helpful for farmers who produce turmeric, mangoes, bananas and poultry industry in western district. It provides them with better connectivity to markets.
- This project will be helpful for unhindered movement of heavy vehicles
- It will prevent accidents
- It will promote economic growth
- It will promote tourism in that region
- It will reduce fuel consumption of vehicles.
- Travelling time will be reduced.
- It will be helpful for the development of western districts.
Demerits 0f this Project:
- Loss of Greenfield.
- Agricultural land will be affected
- Loss of waterbodies because the route passes through some rivers.
- Loss of livelihood for farmers who depends on their farm lands
- Loss of Reserve forests
- Some people will loose their house
- People will be affected psychologically
Government can take the Following Steps to Implement this Project Successfully
- Fair & Reasonable compensation can be given to farmers and landowners
- Rehabilitation and resettlement to the people whose land acquired for this project.
- Explaining the importance of this project to the people.
- Giving adequate time for the people to shift from that area.
- Ensuring that only minimum numbers of trees are cut down.
- Involvement of local workers in the construction and maintenance of highway.