NHAI asked to con­duct two more stud­ies on ex­press­way project

EAC seeks re­port on moun­tain ecosys­tem of the Chennai-Salem green cor­ri­dor pro­posal

The Hindu - - TAMIL NADU - B. Aravind Ku­mar

The Na­tional High­ways Author­ity of In­dia (NHAI) has been asked by the Ex­pert Ap­praisal Com­mit­tee (EAC) of the Min­istry of En­vi­ron­ment and Forests to carry out at least two more stud­ies — an im­pact study on the moun­tain ecosys­tem and a so­cio-eco­nomic study — through re­puted gov­ern­ment in­sti­tutes for the Chennai-Salem eight-lane green­field project.

Amidst op­po­si­tion, the Cen­tre and the State gov­ern­ment are keen on de­vel­op­ing the eight-lane ac­cess­con­trolled green­field cor­ri­dor for 277.3 km be­tween Tam­baram and Salem keep­ing the fu­ture traf­fic needs in mind.

While the EAC had rec­om­mended the Terms of Ref­er­ence (ToR) in June, the project pro­po­nent went back to the com­mit­tee to make changes in the pro­posal by sub­mit­ting an on­line ap­pli­ca­tion on Au­gust 24.

No spur roads

The NHAI now wants to drop the four spur roads and change the Right of Way (RoW) from 90 me­tres to 70 m in non-for­est ar­eas and 50 m in for­est ar­eas.

This will re­sult in re­duc­tion in for­est length and area too: from 13.290 km and 120 hectares to 9.0 km and 45 ha (ap­prox­i­mately), re­spec­tively.

From the be­gin­ning, the project has been fac­ing op­po­si­tion from farm­ers and po­lit­i­cal par­ties in the five dis­tricts that the pro­posed road would pass through as the land — on 10 km ei­ther side of the project — is pre­dom­i­nantly used for agri­cul­ture, fol­lowed by habi­ta­tion and for­est ar­eas.

Also, 12 suits have been filed (till Au­gust 14) re­lated to land ac­qui­si­tion and distri­bu­tion of com­pen­sa­tion. Cases have been filed to stop the land ac­qui­si­tion process till en­vi­ron­men­tal clear­ance is ob­tained.

Tak­ing note of the suits, the com­mit­tee, in its meet­ing on Au­gust 30 and 31, rec­om­mended amend­ments to the ToR with spe­cific con­di­tions. And the ToR was sub­ject to the out­come of the on­go­ing le­gal pro­ceed­ings in the High Court of Madras and other courts/tri­bunals, if any, it em­pha­sised.

Data on road­kill

Since a con­sid­er­able por­tion of the road would pass through a hilly ter­rain, a sep­a­rate study of its im­pact on the moun­tain ecosys­tem should be car­ried out by a re­puted gov­ern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tion such as the Na­tional En­vi­ron­men­tal Engi­neer­ing Re­search In­sti­tute, the Wildlife In­sti­tute of In­dia, or the G.B. Pant Na­tional In­sti­tute of Hi­malayan En­vi­ron­ment and Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment, the com­mit­tee said.

Also, con­sid­er­ing the var­i­ous rep­re­sen­ta­tions against land ac­qui­si­tion sub­mit­ted by lo­cal peo­ple and the writ pe­ti­tions filed in the courts, the EAC rec­om­mended car­ry­ing out a com­pre­hen­sive so­cio-eco­nomic study with em­pha­sis on the im­pact of the land ac­qui­si­tion on the lo­cal peo­ple liv­ing around the pro­posed align­ment through any re­puted Cen­tral in­sti­tu­tion.

De­tails sought

The NHAI has been asked to pro­vide de­tails of the non­for­est ar­eas (ge­o­graph­i­cal area, num­ber of trees and so on) likely to be re­duced be­cause of the change in the RoW from 90 m to 70 m/50 m. It has been asked to com­pile road­kill data on the ex­ist­ing roads (na­tional and State high­ways) in the vicin­ity of the pro­posed project. De­tailed land use for the re­vised RoW and its buf­fer within a 10-km ra­dius and traf­fic pro­jec­tion vis-à-vis the re­vised RoW should be pro­vided, the EAC said.

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