Salem Chennai Expressway
In a letter to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Senthil Kumar requests the environmental clearance be rejected.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters/ Lip Kee Yap/ Wikimedia Commons/ CCBYSA2.0

Even as the pre-feasibility report of the Chennai-Salem Greenfield Corridor has come under the scanner following protests by villagers who stand to lose their lands, a letter to the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change alleges the destruction of rare species of flora and fauna in the area.

As the state government in Tamil Nadu pushes for the Rs 10,000 crore expressway connecting Salem and Chennai, it has met with stiff opposition from activists and villagers. They have slammed the government for not consulting the people whose agricultural lands and livelihoods are at stake.

In a letter to the MOEF, social and civic activist Senthil Kumar, an RTI activist formerly a part of the Aam Aadmi Party, calls for the rejection of the environmental clearance for the project as the “forests contain rare varieties of flora and fauna.”

“For example top canopy flora and fauna like Mimusops elengi, Diospyros ebenum, Strychnos nux vomia are available in the forest. Underwood flora like Carissa carandas and Flacourtia indica exist in the forest... The near extinct specie, Pangolim has been considered as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species is present inside the forest. Forest owlet, another rare specie is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List,” he says.

According to the pre-feasibility report, stretches of the project pass through 11 reserved forests in the main alignment i.e. Chennai- Salem and one in Thiruvannamalai Spur. These include Siruvanjur, Nambedu, Alialamangalam, Anandavadi, Ravandavadi, Manjavadi ghat and Pallipatti extension, Jarugumalai and Sorakolathur.

Under flora, the report names 18 Top Canopy species, 9 Under-wood species and 14 Thorn Forest species. Under fauna, the report names 15 species.

Senthil Kumar points out that of these species, Pangolim and the Spotted owlet are listed as endangered as per the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List.

While the project is yet to be given an environmental clearance, it has already invited the wrath of villagers who refuse to let go of their lands.