A project to connect Chennai and Salem through a six/eight lane highway connecting both the cities has not gone well with environmental activists and farmers. Activists and farmers allege that the proposed alignment in Tiruvannamalai will destroy agricultural land and forest areas.
The highway estimated at a distance of 277.3 kms will run through Tiruvannamalai at an approximate length of 123.90 kms, starting from Cheyyar to Neepathurai. The project is being executed by NHAI is facing severe protest by environmentalists and farmers with support from CPM (Marxist).
The protests to derail the highway project which will reduce the transportation time between the two cities comes after the protestors exerted pressure on the Tamil Nadu government to shut down the Sterilite copper plant.
- Project is an initiative of the Central Government to improve the efficiency of Freight movement across the country.
- The project will reduce the travel distance between Chennai and Salem by 50 kms and reduce travel time from 6 hours to 3 hours.
- Agricultural wells which is the main source of water to farmers in these regions might be damaged by this project
- Project has not received clearance under Forest Conservation Act and DFO (District Forest Officer)
Pasumai Vazhi Salai Ethirppu Koottamaippu (Coalition to oppose the Greenfield Highway construction)
The farmers who could be affected by the construction of a new highway have formed a federation under the name Pasumai Vazhi Salai Ethirppu Koottamaippu. Hundreds of petitions and RTI’s are being filed daily in the collector’s office asking information about the project.
Genuine protest or politics by CPI (M) ?
The 10,000 crore project has met with several road blocks but political analysts say that this could be a ploy to halt the ‘Bharatmala Pariyojana’ project of the NDA government which envisages to optimizing efficiency of freight and passenger movement across the country by bridging critical infrastructure gaps through effective interventions like development of Economic Corridors, Inter Corridors and Feeder Routes, National Corridor Efficiency Improvement, Border and International connectivity roads, Coastal and Port connectivity roads and Green-field expressways.
One of the leader who is opposing the project is Tamil Actor Mansoor Ali Khan who is accused of land grabbing charges in Chennai. Several other separatists are said to be involved in this protest.