Help us to stop the Chennai - Salem Greenfield Highway Project

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Dear sir / madam

The farmers and daily wage earners of Salem, Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri, Thiruvannamalai, Kanchipuram, districts of Tamilnadu, India who are in deep distress and anguish due to the proposal of the Tamilnadu government state and national highways department of the Government of Tamilnadu to lay a eight lane green field highway up to a distance of 274 kilometres between Salem and Chennai.

The entire region is an agricultural and ecologically sensitive zone with Eastern Ghats, thousands of water bodies like ponds, small dams, catchment areas, and 10000 s of wells and bore wells used for irrigation. What is baffling is the alignment proposed by the highways department of the state of Tamilnadu ignores the existing two historical highways from Salem to Chennai which can be converted to 8 lane highways with minimum loss of livelihoods, and protect the environment. The existing Salem Ulunderpettai, Chengelpet, Chennai or Salem Dharmapuri, Vellore, Sriperumbedur, Chennai high way or both can be expanded. In fact land has been acquired in advance and lying idle.

Thousands of poor livestock keepers, daily wage earners and farmers will be rendered homeless and loss of livelihoods, not to mention the colossal loss to biodiversity. In the era of climate change and raising temperatures when eco sensitive nations around the world are working in conserving their precious biological resources the bizarre proposal smacks of nepotism and a illogical move. There has been no stake holder consultation which is mandatory under the law of India and the international United Nations Convention to which India is a signatory.

A green field project of this magnitude should have an environmental impact assessment which is also mandatory under national and international funding norms. Without any consultation or environmental impact assessment suddenly now the officials have taken it up and say it will be implemented come what may. We request you to stop funding this project as it is an anti people, anti environment proposal by the government of Tamilnadu.

In the last month alone, the state police have harassed land owners along the alignment of the proposed highway. They have been warned against associating with people opposed to the project or entertaining any opinions critical of the project. Social activists like Piyush Manush and Valarmathi and cine artist Mansoor Ali Khan have been arrested for opposing the project and for highlighting the dangers posed by it. On June 20, a hall meeting organised for farmers by the All India Kisan Sabha in Thiruvannamalai was disrupted by the police. Scores of organisers were arbitrarily taken to the police station for questioning and later released. Barricades were put up to prevent farmers from reach
In the meeting hall. The police have become the only public face of the government. We are wondering if we live in a democratically governed country or a banana republic.

A social assessment is expected to evaluate the social risks of the project in terms of its social impacts and its acceptability among the project-affected persons. Public consultation is paramount to a robust assessment.
Indeed, for the 8-lane Highway, the PFR prepared by Feedback Infra Pvt Ltd notes that the scope of work includes: “Public consultation, including consultation with communities located along the road, NGOs working in the area, other stakeholders and relevant government departments at all the different stages of assignment (such as inception, feasibility, prelim The Feasibility Report falsely states that public consultations have been carried out at the village level, including with potential land-losers like myself, and at the district level, as part of the Social Impact Assessment. No data about the consultations, such as the date of consultation or the names of villages where such consultations happened, have been provided.

Neither farmers nor farm workers in the village have never been approached, leave alone consulted, about our response to the project. Had they done so, our objection to the project and the grounds for the same would have reflected in their project report.

Secondly the loss to environment due to the felling of millions of trees in the entire 270 kilometre stretch will be tremendous. 
The loss to biodiversity and the flora and fauna will have a big impact on the region. Already the world is suffering from the effects of climate change. World Bank should not add to the loss of biodiversity which leads to climate change. The entire stretch
Of the canal has lakhs of trees, more than 200 documented varieties of birds which will be lost.

This will also lead to World Bank going against the basic tenets of the United Nations Convention on biological diversity 
(UNCBD) and United Nations Convention to combat desertification ( UNCCD).We request upon the world bank to call for a independent assessment of the proposal plus prior informed consent and independent opinion seeking from the ryots ,farmers, concerned
Beneficiaries and stake holders. Please make sure advertisements are issued in major news papers and opinion called for under a judicial protection involving the three justices of the high court.

The United Nations SDG – Sustainable Development Goals namely

The 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) to transform our world:
GOAL 1: No Poverty
GOAL 2: Zero Hunger
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being
GOAL 4: Quality Education
GOAL 5: Gender Equality
GOAL 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
GOAL 10: Reduced Inequality
GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
GOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
GOAL 13: Climate Action
GOAL 14: Life below Water
GOAL 15: Life on Land
GOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
GOAL 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal

Above mentioned UN goals would be impaired by the proposed Salem highway proposal. It would go against the SDG proposed by the United Nations for the betterment of humanity as a whole. The proposal will be directly against the goals marked in yellow.

We hope for justice to prevail in this important livelihood threatening issue of more than half million people directly and indirectly.

Best wishes and sincere regards

Yours sincerely

Karthikeya Sivasenapathy
27 06 2018

Ex. Member of the board, Tamilnadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore
Managing Trustee, Senaapathy Kangayam Cattle Research Foundation, an organisation working on in situ conservation of livestock, livelihoods, social justice and environment.
Part of the Nagoya Protocol, CoP 10, UNCBD, Nagoya, Japan, 2010.


To The Chief Justice of India
Honourable Supreme Court
Tilak Marg, New Delhi - 110201

The Principal Secretary
Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
Indira Parvayaran Bhawan
Jor Bagh, New Delhi-110003