CHENNAI: The Centre has set the ball rolling for the ambitious Bengaluru-Chennai Expressway, a project which will claim a whopping 1.35 lakh trees. About 70 hectares of reserve forest will be diverted for the 265 km eight-lane expressway that pass through Karnataka, Andhra and Tamil Nadu.
The Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change at a recent meeting recommended grant of Terms of Reference (ToR) for the project to be implemented in three phases at a total cost of `13,442 crore.
This comes at a time, when there is hue and cry over the Chennai-Salem greenfield highway that passes through four reserve forests (RF). The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) made a detailed presentation about the Expressway project during the 187th meeting of EAC in New Delhi on April 12. After detailed deliberations, EAC recommended grant of ToR with certain conditions for road works to be carried out in each of the phases.
As per the minutes of the EAC meeting, a copy of which is with Express, the Tamil Nadu stretch will be executed in Phase-3. While an application for forest clearance has been filed and is under process, as many as 10,450 trees are likely to be axed. Under Phase-2, which covers 85 km, the ecological concerns are far more grievous with the proposed road passing through the Rayala Elephant Reserve in Palamaner and falling within 10km from the eco-sensitive zone of Kaundinya Wild Life Sanctuary. Further, as many as 24,800 trees are to be axed in this phase. However, it is under Phase-1 that maximum tree cover loss of a 1 lakh trees is likely to be reported.