CHENNAI: Even as Chennai-Salem Greenfield Highway project faces stiff resistance, National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is pressing hard to implement another mega 265-km eight-lane Bengaluru-Chennaiexpressway. However, the project awaits green nod from Union environment ministry as the proposed road passes through Mahimandalamreserve forest in Arcot range of Vellore forest division.
NHAI has created an exclusive Project Implementation Unit (PIU) to fast-track Bengaluru-Chennai Expressway project. The invitation of bids for the project has already been initiated and was initially targeted to complete invitation of bids by March this year. However, the project fell behind schedule for want of forest clearance, NHAIofficials told the Express.
Now, Tamil Nadu forest department has reportedly cleared the proposed diversion of 5.42 hectares of reserve forest and forwarded the application to environment ministry for final approval. A senior forest official told the Express that Standing Committee of NationalBoard for the Wildlife (NBWL) to the project has recently visited the reserve forest that is proposed to be diverted and gathered first-hand information on the number of trees to be felled.NHAI has submitted the application for NBWL approval on January 12,2018 and the current status shows "application under process". District Forest Officer of Vellore had earlier raised several queries and NHAI has already submitted the documents sought.
NHAI had obtained certificates of non-availability of non-forest land for the project from district collector and an undertaking is given to pay Net present value (NPV). In a note justifying for locating the project in forest area, NHAI says various realignment options have been studied and came with the final alignment having minimum reserved forest land. As per the Terms of Reference (ToR) issued by the environment ministry, Tamil Nadu stretch will be executed in Phase-3. It starts from Ramapuram village in Gudipala Mandal in Chittoor District of Andhra Pradesh to Irungattukottai village in Sriperambudur taluk of Kancheepuram.
The total length of Phase-3 of the proposed expressway is 106.569 km, which is the longest compared to other two phases. It will be implemented at an estimated cost of Rs 5,774.43 crore requiring 1,118.105 hectares of land. About 10,450 trees are likely to be axed, as per NHAI submission before Expert Appraisal Committee. Also, 368 structures will be affected due to the proposed road and NHAIofficials said the authority will compensate the affected titleholders as per the NHAI Act, 1956.