CHENNAI: About 100 hectares of reserve forest land in Tiruvannamalai, Dharmapuri and Salem districts will be destroyed to make way for the proposed Rs 10,000-crore Chennai-Salem Green Corridor Express Highway project. The sprawling 100 hectares of forest land identified for the project include thick forest cover in 16 reserve forest areas along Arani, Polur, Chengam, Sathanur, Tiruvannamalai, Therthamalai, Harur and North Shevaroy ranges in northern district of Tamil Nadu.
The reserve forest areas are Siruvanjur in Chengalpattu forest range, A Pinjur in Sathanur, Sorakolathur in Tiruvannamalai, Nambedu in Arani, Alialamangalam in Polur, and Munnarmangalam, Anandavadi and Ravandavadi in Chengam range, Puvampatti and Puvampatti Extension in Theerthamalai forest range, Nonanganur and Pallipatti Extension in Harur ranges in Dhamapuri district; Manjavadi Ghat and Jarugumalai in Shervaroy North range in Salem district.
In its recent communication to the State government (Express has a copy of the document), the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) assessed that about 100 hectares of forest land in reserve forest area would have to be destroyed for the green corridor express project. “In addition to this, out of 274.3 km road, a total of 23 km road has to be laid in reserve forest land that pass through 16 forest villages,” said the communication.
The NHAI also urged the State government to identify alternative land for the forest department in the neighbhouring vicinity and also sought the government to accord early clearance from the forest department.
The reserve forest area is home to hundreds of animals and several bird species, besides functioning as lungs for villages in Northern Tamil Nadu.
Environmentalists in Tiruvannamalai district had already opposed the move and sought details on the number of trees to be destroyed and other possible environmental damage the project could cause.
J D Prakash, president of Ilanthalir, told Express they were awaiting the environmental impact assessment report from the government. “The entire bio-diversity system would be affected even if they destroy 10 hectares of forest cover. The proposal to clear 100 hectares of forest land would cause irreversible damage to environment in Tiruvannamalai and Dharmapuri. The birds and other species will lose their shelter if trees are felled,” he said.
He also questioned the rationale behind laying a new express highway, while a six-lane road exists up to Vaniyambadi. “When the government faces opposition for land acquisition in road projects, they proposed elevated highways in Chennai. Why such ideas are not being considered?” he asked.
The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways had recently proposed to develop a 274.3 km green corridor project, which seeks to reduce the travel distance between Chennai city and Salem by 50 km. According to NHAI estimates, the project requires 2,343 hectares of land in the five districts.
Forest department sources told Express they are about to begin an assessment on the number of trees to be felled. They refused to comment further.
• About 100 hectares of reserve forest land in Tiruvannamalai, Dharmapuri and Salem districts to make way for the highway project
• To reduce 57 km travel distance between Chennai and Salem, MORTH proposed Rs 10k crore project
• Total of 2343 hectares of land to be acquired