CHENNAI: There seems to be a sudden push for implementing the Chennai-Salem Greenfield Expressway project. The Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the Union Environment Ministry has approved amendment to Terms of Reference (ToR) within a week after National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) made an online request intended to deflect some of the criticisms.
The approval was given during the 195th meeting of EAC held in New Delhi a few days back. As per the revised project proposal, the cost of the project is slashed from `10,000 crore to `7,210 crore and importantly, the diversion of forest area is cut by two-thirds as Right of Way (RoW) has been reduced from 90 metres to 70 metres and in forest area it has been further restricted to 50 metres.
The original plan endangered a whopping 120 hectares of forest area. The revised plan needs only 45 hectares to be diverted.
Interestingly, the amendment corrected the goof-up committed earlier while granting ToR where environment ministry issued ToR for 265-km Chennai-Bengaluru Expressway mistaking it for 277-km Chennai-Salem greenfield highway project. The error was reported by Express on June 24. Meanwhile, the committee has imposed some specific conditions as more than 12 litigations challenging the proposed project and land acquisition have been filed before the Madras High Court.
“Considering the various representations against land acquisition, EAC recommends to carry out a comprehensive socio-economic assessment with emphasis on impact of ongoing land acquisition on the local people living around the proposed alignment from any reputed institution of the Government of India,” said Deepak Arun Apte, Chairman, EAC (Infra-1).
Also, considering the fact that a significant portion of road passing through the hilly terrain, a separate study on impact of proposed alignment on mountain ecosystem (hilly region), should be carried out by a reputed government organisation, like National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Wildlife Institute of India or G.B Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment & Development.
Besides, EAC has said ToR granted to the project is subject to outcome of ongoing proceedings in the Madras High Court.