CHENNAI: The National Highways Authority of India's project implementation unit in Chennai has written to the Chennai Rivers Restoration Trust (CRRT) to delay the remainder of the mass sapling project until the construction of the elevated highway from Chennai Port to Maduravoyal.
In a letter, addressed to the CRRT dated June 22, the Project Director said, "The alignment of the new Double Decker Elevated Highway is passing through the banks of the Cooum river and piers are proposed to be erected on the banks."
"During the construction phase, there will be movement of heavy equipment /machines at the construction site. Plantation work may hamper the construction of the elevated highway causing obstruction/reduced working space. Moreover, plants are also likely to be damaged due to construction activities/movement of heavy equipment if they are planted before the construction of the project highway," the letter stated.
However, The New Indian Express had reported earlier that the CRRT had already claimed to have planted over 20,000 saplings. Now, it remains unclear if the saplings that have been already planted would be affected by the elevated highway.
The project aimed to plant 4.53 lakh saplings along the Cooum river bank under the Integrated Cooum river eco-restoration project for a length of 60 kilometres (30 kilometres on each side) from the river mouth to Paruthipattu and was launched by the then Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami.
Among various concerns surrounding the timing and implementation of the mass plantation project, The New Indian Express in an article titled 'Seeds of doubt over CRRT’s plantation drive', published on March 16 this year, reported on the lack of a contingency plan for the saplings if the elevated Expressway project is set into motion.
Speaking to The New Indian Express, a Highways official involved in the project, who did not want to be named, said, "This is a cautionary letter in case the saplings get damaged during construction work. They may carry out the work after the completion of the project."