The proposed eight-lane greenfield corridor, connecting Chennai and Salem,has drawn flak from opposition parties, with DMK working president M K Stalin claiming the 277.30-km-long highway would destroy 8,000 acres of farm land, besides reserved forests and hills. The Tamil Nadu government is all set to start the land acquisition for the Rs 10,000 crore highway, a pet project of both the Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari and Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami. Salem is also the chief minister’s native district.
While Palaniswami has clarified in the state assembly that, contrary to rumours, the project would require 1,900 hectares of land compared to 2,400 hectares acquired to widen the Chennai-Tindivanam-Salem route and Chennai-Kanchipuram-Vellore-Krishnagiri-Dharmapuri and Salem highways, it continued to trigger heated debates in the assembly over the past two days.
“Only 9.9km of the 277.3 km-long corridor cuts through reserved forest area of Chengalpet, Arni, Polur, Chengam and Harur,” he told the Assembly on Monday.
Opposition leader Stalin, however, warned the government to follow norms and consult the people (to be affected by the project) to prevent a Tuticorin-like agitation. In Tuticorin, 13 anti-pollution protesters were killed in police firing on May 22. According to a source, the home ministry has already convened two high-level intelligence meetings to assess possible challenges to the project.
“After a high-level meeting of CM Palaniswami, DGP T K Rajendran and top intelligence officials, yet another meeting was convened by DGP with SPs from all six affected districts through which the highway will pass,” the source said.