A highway project in Tamil Nadu that will cut travel time between Chennai and Salem city cleared a big hurdle today as the Supreme Court allowed the acquisition of farm land, opposed by farmers along the planned route.
The Rs 10,000-crore Chennai-Salem highway project had been held up by a Madras High Court order last year, which cancelled land acquisition. That order was challenged by the National Highways Authority before the Supreme Court, which has now overturned it.
The eight-lane highway, around 277 km long, connects Chennai and Salem – Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E Palaniswamy’s home district, around 366 km from the state capital — under a central scheme. It aims to cut travel time between the cities from six to three hours.
The central government was today allowed to restart land acquisition in compliance with environmental rules. But the Supreme Court said the process must start afresh.
The Madras High Court had cancelled the project on petitions from Anbumani Ramadoss of PMK, which is an ally of the Chief Minister’s AIADMK, and others.
The project, which will slice through forests and hills, has provoked massive protests with farmers opposing the acquisition of 5,000 acres of mostly fertile farmland.
They argue that the rising demand for food is more important than traffic needs and demand that existing largely four lane highways which they claim do not see any busy traffic in the region be widened.