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Only 7 km forest land in 277 km-long stretch: State

Even as amendments to the eight-lane Chennai Salem Greenfield corridor is on the cards, the State Government has informed the Madras High Court that as per the proposed alignment, the 277 Km project involved a mere 7 Km of forest land.

Only 7 km forest land in 277 km-long stretch: State
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Chennai

In response to the division bench comprising Justice T S Sivagnanam and Justice V Bhavani Subbaroyan’s direction to explain as to how forest clearance for the project was given in six days, Advocate General Vijay Narayan submitted that the clearance offered was not as per Forest Act but as per Wildlife Protection Act for three sanctuaries-Karikili bird sanctuary, Vedanthagal bird sanctuary and Cauvery National Park- that fall under the project.

But on superimposing the alignment with the existing map of the sanctuaries, it was found instantly that while Karikili bird sanctuary was 12.68 km from the road, the Vedanthangal bird sanctuary was 18.92 km from the alignment, while the Cauvery National Park, a wild life sanctuary, was 66.16 km away, the Advocate General said and noted that as regards the bird sanctuaries, while the road can pass at 0 km as it is only a pond, the distance even surpasses the buffer zone of 10 kms and hence clearance was offered instantly.

However, regarding the alignment going through the forest area, the Advocate General submitted that such acquisition falls under the Forest Conservation Act and as per the present alignment, the forest land required runs to a stretch of 7.44 kms involving 32.05 hectares.  Noting that this process involves applying online following which, an inspection would be undertaken by DFO and on concurrence from State, the same would be forwarded to the Central Empowered Committee, which must ratify it. In the event of any conflict, the Supreme Court would decide.

The bench was also informed that the process would take at least six to eight months.

However, about the cutting down of 109 trees, the bench sought the government to cancel the bail granted to the two accused and sought the early arrest of three others involved. Recording the State’s submission that out of the planned 1000 odd sapling, over 300 saplings have already been planted in the area, the bench sought the State to involve the forest department though land belongs to the revenue department to ensure that the sapling planting work is done in a professional manner.

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