NHAI asked to conduct two more studies on expressway project
EAC seeks report on mountain ecosystem of the Chennai-Salem green corridor proposal
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.
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.