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Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)
Monday, 02 July 2018 11:49

TAMILNADU FEARS OVER CHENNAI-SALEM HIGHWAY PROJECT

ENVIRONMENTAL activists, farmers, advocates and political parties join hands in Tiruvannamalai.

The project to develop a six/eight-lane greenfield highway connecting Chennai and Salem has drawn flak from farmers and environment activists in Tiruvannamalai. They say a major portion of the corridor that runs through the district will end up destroying both agricultural land and forest areas.

As per the pre-feasibility report, the proposed alignment for the access-controlled Chennai-Salem greenfield highway will start near the Chennai Outer Ring Road junction and pass through Kancheepuram, Tiruvannamalai, Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri and Salem districts. This was part of the Central government’s scheme to develop economic corridors, inter corridors, feeder corridors and national corridors to improve the efficiency of freight movements in India under ‘Bharatmala Pariyojana’.

The highway is for a total distance of 277.3 km. It runs through Tiruvannamalai for an approximate length of 123.90 km, starting from Cheyyar to Neepathurai.

Federation Formed

THIS project to be carried out by National Highways Authority of India is facing stiff opposition from farmers and environment activists in Tiruvannamalai district. Nearly 13 organisations, including farmers associations, a few political parties, advocates and environment-based NGOs, have joined hands to form a federation against the project. They have started reaching out to villagers and farmers who will be affected. They staged a demonstration on Monday and handed over petitions to the Collector. Nearly 92 villages will be affected if this highway project is implemented. Several thousand acres of agricultural lands and hundreds of farm wells will be affected. A major portion of this highway that is coming up at an estimated of ¹ 11,000 crore will run through reserve forest areas.

‘No Use for Farmers’

SEVERAL lands in Cheyyar and Vandavasi will bear the maximum damage, said L. Alagesan, district committee member of All India Kisan Sabha, Tiruvannamalai. “We have visited and surveyed 129 villages and have found that at least 600 to 750 agricultural wells that are being used now will be affected. We depend more on water in agricultural wells for irrigation here. Some farmers will lose at least eight to 10 acres of land each. This highway is going to be of no use for farmers or residents. It is to only facilitate mining and transportation of iron ore from Kavuthi and Vediyappan Hills in Tiruvannamalai and Kanjamalai in Salem,” he stated.

The project has revived the opposition that was registered against iron ore mining in Kavuthi and Vediyappan Hills during 2003, 2009 and 2014. “We do not want a road that will destroy forests, hills and agricultural lands. This project does not have many link roads for the benefit of public,” said S. Abiraman, an advocate and chief co-ordinator of the federation. The federation has approached villagers and have asked them to pass resolutions opposing the project during the ‘grama sabha’ and special ‘grama sabha’ meetings, he said. According to the pre-feasibility report, part of the project stretch passes through five Reserve Forests (RF) in Tiruvannamalai. It has noted that the exact length of affected forest area will be calculated after a joint inspection with the Forest department. In fact, an official source said that one of the RFs – Ravandavadi RF in Chengam Forest Range– has thick forest area. 

GREENFIELD HIGHWAY PLAN HITS ROADBLOCK

NEARLY 150 village-level committees have been constituted in Tiruvannamalai, Salem, Krishnagiri and Dharmapuri districts to protest the proposed greenfield highway connecting Salem and Chennai, under the central govt’s Bharatmala Pariyojana scheme.

Sources in the intelligence wings of the state and the Centre said that there are strong undercurrents among the villagers against the eight/six-lane greenfield highway connecting Salem and Chennai on a third route. Members of 26 various organisations have also joined hands and formed a federation – Pasumai Vazhi Salai Ethirppu Koottamaippu – to express their solidarity against the Rs 11,000 crore road project. The villagers were fuming over the project, which has been designed to facilitate corporate and multi-national companies involved in iron ore mining, a police officer said, adding, “If the authorities begin the process of land acquisition, there will be law and order issues.”

The members of the federation have been busy constituting the village-level committees, comprising farmers whose land has been marked for acquisition for implementing the 274.3km long highway project. “The objective of the micro-level committee is to bring all affected parties under a common umbrella to save our livelihood and environment. This will also help in collecting details of all households and farmlands coming under acquisition,” said chief coordinator of the federation S Abiraman. The project cuts through 129 villages in Tiruvannamalai district and they would form as many committees, he added.

So far, around 50 committees have been formed in Tiruvannamalai. Each panel has seven to 20 members. The members of the federation in Salem, Krishnagiri and Dharmapuri have formed over 100 village-level committees, and more committees will be formed to cover all affected villages.

Apart from this, the federation members along with villagers have also been bombarding the district administration with petitions and applications under RTI Act. “We have submitted hundreds of petitions to collector and special RDO (land acquisition) seeking details about the project under RTI. We are waiting for the reply, even while seeking help from others to save our farmland and forests,” said L Azhakesan, a resident of Tiruvannamalai and a member of the federation.

Shanmughasun daram J. Times of India 

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