CHENNAI: Amidst all the hue and cry over the Chennai-Salem greenfield expressway project, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is proposing to lay another new six-lane greenfield highway from Thatchur near Chennai to Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh. The project covering a distance of 126.550 km will cut through Pulikundram reserve forest in the Red Hills range of the Tiruvallur division.
Official records available with Express reveal that a minimum of 32 hectares of reserve forest will have to be cleared. A total of 885.5 hectares will be acquired, which include 525 hectares in Andhra Pradesh and 360.5 hectares in Tamil Nadu. A whopping 64 per cent of land identified for acquisition is agriculture, 15 per cent barren and 10 per cent forest.
The NHAI is building the proposed highway under the Bharatmala Pariyojana, an umbrella scheme of the Central government, at an estimated cost of `3,197.56 crore.Sources told Express that the NHAI, along with consultant Louis Berger, has made a detailed presentation before the Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways and the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and an in-principle approval was granted.
On Thursday, the proposal seeking Terms of Reference to carry out Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) studies was taken up by the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the Union Environment Ministry.
As per initial assessment, it is anticipated that on an average, about 150 to 200 trees are likely to be affected per km. The detailed assessment of actual trees to be affected (tree inventories) on the finalised alignment will be undertaken during a detailed EIA study and the preparation of Forest Clearance proposals as per the Forest Conservation (Act) 1980.
Who are real beneficiaries?
The detailed project report (DPR), accessed by Express, clearly indicates that the new greenfield highway is being conceived to benefit Kamarajar Port and Kattupalli Port which is recently acquired by Adani. The Chittoor to Tatchur alignment will provide direct port connectivity to Bengaluru and Chittoor.
“The proposed Chennai-Kurnool economic corridor starts in Chennai and terminates in Kurnool, passing through Puttur, Renigunta, Kadapa and Nandyal. It was noted that the section from Nagari to Renigunta has been developed under the National Highways Development Project. Therefore, if Nagari- Chennai (Thatchur) section with a spur to Chittoor section gets developed as part of the Chennai-Kurnool corridor, it will offer an alternative connectivity between Chennai and Bengaluru/Chittoor.
Further, the container traffic, originating from Bengaluru and running towards the ports of Kamarajar and Kattupalli, currently passes through the congested Chennai bypass road and Tamil Nadu is developing the northern port access road from Thatchur to Kamarajar (Ennore) and Kattupalli ports. Therefore the Chittoor-Thatchur greenfield alignment will provide a direct port connectivity to Bangalore and Chittoor.
Accordingly this route is notified in Gazette as NH 716B, according to the DPR. In between, there are 137 villages, three rives, and 27 ponds/check dams.
As per the Form-1 submitted by the NHAI to the Environment Ministry, the greenfield project will pass through 137 villages, cross three rivers - Ponnai, Nagari and Aranai - and few minor streams. Besides, 27 ponds/check dams fall along the project road, of which some will be directly impacted.
“Impacted ponds and check-dams, relocation of ground/surface water sources and provision of retaining walls in the periphery of the pond shall be proposed for effective conservation of water,” NHAI officials propose.
New road will decongest Chennai city: NHAI
● The proposed greenfield alignment will provide direct connectivity to Kamarajar (Ennore) and Kattupalli ports through Bangalore-Chennai expressway
● The alignment will ensure seamless connectivity without mixing with Chennai city traffic
● This route will decongest Chennai city from port-bound heavy truck traffic
● This corridor will provide connectivity to Ponneri smart city and Mahindra world city
● It will improve air quality due to reduction in truck traffic through Chennai city
● It will provide connectivity to SEZs and other industrial estates in the vicinity of port
● Total distance through this alignment will be shortened by about 30 km resulting in huge saving in VOC (vehicle operating cost)
Salient features of the project
The proposed greenfield alignment starts from Bengaluru-Chennai proposed expressway in Chittoor
The proposed alignment ends in Thatchur on NH 5 in the proposed Chennai Peripheral Road project
Total length of proposed alignment is 126.373 km
The proposed alignment passes through the length of 83 km in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh and 43.7 km of Tiruvallur district in Tamil Nadu
Proposed alignment crosses railway line in 3 locations
The alignment envisages four major bridges.
Project cost:Rs 3,197.56 crore
Present traffic condition
At present Bengaluru and north India traffic negotiates the existing NH-48 and Chennai city to reach Kamarajar & Kattupalli ports
Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka traffic negotiates the existing NH-40 and joins NH-48 in Walajahpet and goes through Chennai city to reach Kamarajar & Kattupalli ports
Andhra Pradesh traffic negotiates the existing NH 716 and joins NH 48 in Sriperumbudur and goes through Chennai city to reach Kamarajar and Kattupalli ports