CHENNAI: The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is exploring new alignment options to avoid the Kalrayan Hills forest for the proposed Chennai-Salem Greenfield Expressway project. As per the revised pre-feasibility report submitted to the Union Environment Ministry, the project consultant Feedback Infra Pvt Ltd has come up with three new alternative routes from Chengam to Salem totally avoiding Kalrayan Hills.
The exercise was carried out following certain specific conditions highlighted by the ministry in the Terms of Reference (ToR) granted in June this year. One of the conditions was “possibility of realignment to avoid Kalrayan Hills forest”.The three new options include Chengam-Mungikotai-Dharmapuri-Salem (138.3 km); Chengam-Harur-Dharmapuri-Salem (154.9 km) and Chengam-Harur-Deevattipatti-Salem (121.9 km).
However, NHAI officials maintain that the original alignment that starts from Chengam-Harur-Ayodhyapattnam-Salem (via Manjavadi), is still the better option. The length of alignment (110.9 km) is least compared to other options. Travel time from Chengam to Salem is minimum as vehicles can drive at 100 kmph. The number of affected settlements are 12, which is less compared to 56, 74 and 48 respectively.
“Though the three new alignment options avoid Kalrayan Hills forest, it would eat into several other reserve forests. For instance, as per original plan, 5,85 km of forest length between Chengam and Salem which involves diversion of 29.25 hectares in Kalrayan Hills, will be affected,” official sources said.
Elevated corridor at animal crossing pointsMaking a strong case before the Environment Ministry to consider approving original plan, an elevated corridor was being proposed at animal crossing locations identified during joint inspection by the consultant and forest department officials, to have least impact on the environment.