CHENNAI: After placing on record that the Union government will not proceed with land acquisition for the proposed 277.30km Chennai-Salem Expressway, the Madras High Court has sought reports from the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Harur and District Forest Officer over felling of 109 trees, which were 30 metres away from the proposed alignment.
The judges raised concern over felling of 109 trees which were 30 meters away from the alignment of the proposed Chennai-Salem highway. “The distance is a matter of concern because, while making assessment, obviously the authorities, who make the study, will be under the impression that the land is a barren land,” a bench of Justices T S Sivagnanam and V Bhavani Subbaroyan said.
The court directed the DSP, Harur, to file a report on the antecedents of the five accused involved in felling of trees. It also directed the District Forest Officer to file a report as to the modus operandi, which was adopted and as to why adequate care and protection were not taken to ensure there was no illegal felling of trees, especially when the plot was adjoining the forest area.
“We make it clear that the State Administration shall make it known to the authorities concerned while making the environmental impact assessment that 109 trees have been felled. The State government has taken a policy decision to replant 10 trees if a tree is felled or removed for a particular project.
“This should be followed in this case also and steps shall be taken for re-planting 10 trees for each tree felled. We will issue further directions on receipt of the reports from the DSP, Harur and the DFO concerned,” the judges said.
The land owners expressed fears that the government may go ahead with land acquisition proceedings by issuing a notification under Section 3D of National Highways Act, 1956 after National Highways Authority of India Project Director in Kancheepuram filed an affidavit on the status of environmental impact assessment and the feasibility studies of the project. Section 3D of the 1956 Act deals with declarations of acquisition made by the Centre when an objection has not been raised to a project within a stipulated period.
“The Additional Solicitor-General G Rajagopalan who appeared on behalf of Union of India submits that nothing will happen as apprehended by the petitioners. The submission is placed on record. The NHAI shall file a flow chart as to what are the steps taken...,” the bench said, while posting the case for September 20.