The Central government has submitted to the Madras High Court that the Salem-Chennai Green Corridor is for protecting the environment.
According to a report in The Hindu, the Centre told the HC that the expressway could actually help in reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 17 crore kgs, which is equal to the good effect from 38,000 hectares forest area with 75 lakh trees.
The Centre was responding to public interest litigation petitions filed by advocate AP Suryaprakasam and two others. It also said that the reduction of carbon dioxide will be achieved by reducing diesel consumption by 10 crore litres per annum since the distance between the two cities will be reduced by at least 57 kms due to the new expressway.
The major points of opposition raised by activists and the general public in relation to this project are that the project passes through 10 kms of reserve forest. The trees that would be razed down to lay the road will have a negative impact on the environment. They have also objected to the land acquisition measures undertaken by the government before obtaining the clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
Another concern was that there were already two routes which connected Chennai and Salem, and hence, there was no need for a new road to be developed from scratch. They also said that the government can instead focus on widening the existing routes to decongest the route.
The Central government also said that widening the existing national highways would be more damaging to the environment than laying a new road from scratch, since widening would involve demolishing structures that had come up on both sides of the existing roads. The Centre also submitted that widening existing roads are neither environmentally nor financially feasible in comparison to constructing a road from scratch.
The court was also told that it was not necessary to obtain environmental clearance for the project from the Central government before issuing land acquisition notifications.
‚ÄúThe authority empowered to undertake environment appraisal and clearance cannot do so unless it is made aware of the alignment as borne out from the preliminary land acquisition notifications in this behalf. Further, the land acquisition per se has no impact on the environment impact assessment. These are two altogether different activities and not inter-dependant,‚ÄĚ the Centre said as per the report. The Centre also added that environmental clearance and the land acquisition is being done simultaneously to reduce time.
Stating that 9.95 kms of reserve forest need to be acquired for the project, the Central government submitted that it was unavoidable when undertaking infrastructure projects and that it would ensure that the impact is kept at the least possible level. It also assured the court that the water bodies en route would be preserved by desilting and deepening them.