Amid opposition to the Rs 10,000 crore Chennai-Salem greenfield highway from some quarters, Tamil Nadu chief Minister K Palaniswami today asserted it will boost economic growth and its gains far outweighed other factors.
The 277.3 km long eight-lane greenfield project connecting Chennai and Salem under the Centre's 'Bharatmala Pariyojana' scheme, will stimulate growth like the Mumbai-Pune and Delhi-Agra expressway projects, he told the state assembly.
He also said compensation for land would be paid as per the new land acquisition law and per hectare, it will be a minimum of Rs 20 lakh, for concrete houses it will be Rs 340 per sq ft and for a coconut tree it is Rs 40,000.
Allaying fears, he listed out various benefits that the highway would bring in and appealed to the public to extend cooperation for the project.
Stating that quality roads were crucial for economic growth, he said the greenfield highway will propel industrial growth, and lead to increase in Per Capita Income and GDP.
The chief minister was replying to Leader of the Opposition M K Stalin (DMK) and his party member I Periyasamy who raised the road project issue vis-vis opposition to it from some quarters including the Left parties.
Stalin referred to concerns over environment and apprehension that large tracts of farm and forest lands will be affected in five districts and wanted the government to seek the views of local people before going ahead.
He said coming up with new road projects or acquiring land for it was not wrong but in view of the opposition, a solution should be found by holding consultations with people.
Similarly, the new project, sanctioned by the Centre after much persuasion, will open out new opportunities for industrial growth in the backward regions of Tiruvannamalai and Dharmapuri districts, he said.
Palaniswami said apprehensions that the project would affect environment, mineral resources, farm, and forest lands, were unnecessary.
"For the greefield highway only about 1,900 hectares of land will be acquired and not several thousand hectares of land and out of this, about 400 hectares are government owned poramboke lands," he said.
The proposed expressway goes through only 49 hectare of forest land (falling in towns including Chengelpet, Arani, Polur, Chengam and Harur) corresponding to 9.955 km out of the total length of 277.30 km, he said.
In respect of about 3.1 km of forest land for Salem bypass section of the green highway, a tunnel will be constructed to ensure that forests were not affected, he said adding no hindrance would be caused to wildlife also.
On both sides of the highway about 3 lakh tree saplings will be planted and only a small number of trees will be felled.
The proposed highway will cut distance by over 60 km and bring down the travel time by half (it will be only about 2 hours and 15 minutes between Salem-Chennai) and lead to an annual saving of Rs 700 crore worth of fuel, Palaniswami said.
"The task of preparing a Detailed Project Report has been entrusted with a private firm," he said adding other work including measuring required lands and acquisition was on.
At present, to reach Salem in western Tamil Nadu from Chennai, it will take about five hours either through Chennai-Bengaluru (via Vellore/360 kms) or Chennai-Madurai (via Ullundurpet/350 kms) highways, he said.
The two highways have traffic density more than their respective capacities and it would only increase further, he said adding if these were to be expanded, it would require 2,200 hectares of land and demolition of about 40,000 houses and industries.
The Chief Minsiter said, since he hailed from Salem "unnecessary accusations," were being made.
About Rs 75,000 crore worth of road projects for Tamil Nadu were under the consideration of the Centre, he added.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)