Farmers, Environmental Activists in Tamil Nadu Not in Favour of Chennai-Salem Highway

Reported by

Manasi KarthikLand Conflict Watch

Last updated on

June 9, 2021

Location of Conflict



Reason or Cause of Conflict




People Affected by Conflict

Land Area Affected (in Hectares)



Starting Year



Tamil Nadu



On April 8, 2019, the Madras High Court stalled land acquisition proceedings for the ChennaiSalem Expressway Project and ordered that all land records and communications issued to landowners be revoked within two weeks. The court expressed its unhappiness with the project's prefeasibility report, pointing out that the report was a "cutandpaste" job. According to The Wire, the project feasibility report is dominantly plagiarised and has failed to consult the affected families to properly assess the technical, economic and social feasibility of the project and the resultant impacts and losses on environment and people's livelihood. The ChennaiSalem Greenfield Highway is a 277kmlong, eightlane expressway proposed under the Bharatmala scheme at an investment of Rs. 10,000 crore. Bharatmala is a Central government initiative to improve road connectivity and infrastructure in India, besides improving the country's manufacturing capacity. Upon completion, the expressway will reduce the travel time between Salem and Chennai to three hours from the current six hours. The project has been met with opposition from the farming communities from whom land is to be acquired. According to a news report, around 853 families from five districts in the state are expected to be affected by the land acquisition. The farmers claim that the project threatens their livelihoods and that the compensation offered by the government is inadequate. They also claim that the project is to be implemented under the National Highways Act, 1956, which requires public hearing and Social Impact Assessment, a necessity under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Act of 2013 but that it is being surpassed by the authorities. On February 1, 2018, farmers in Sriperumbudur, Chengalpet and Uthiramerur tehsils in Kanchipuram district received a notice from the state that their fertile land would be acquired for the eightlane ChennaiSalem highway. Similar notifications have been issued for acquiring land in Dharmapuri, Salem and Krishnagiri districts. Ever since, farmers and environmental activists have been opposing the project. In June 2018, some of the protesting farmers and activists accused the district authorities of committing excesses and harassing protesters in an attempt to disrupt the demonstrations. Several activists, including Yogendra Yadav, were arrested and meetings were stalled. In August, the Madras High Court directed the Tamil Nadu government to not dispossess the landowners of their land holdings until further notice. The court also ordered the state to adequately compensate the farmers who were mistreated by the police while protesting, in response to a public interest litigation, says a news report. After the court order, the district authorities stated that the affected farmers will be compensated for land and losses under the LARR Act and that they would carry out an Environment Impact Assessment of the project. The Salem district collector also stated that a suitable relief and rehabilitation plan would be prepared. The farmers in the region have been dependent on agriculture for ages. If the government takes away their fertile land, they will have to migrate to different places. There are already two different routes to ChennaiSalem. Why is the government keen on destroying our land? "We will fight until the government drops the project," Nehru, the tehsil president of Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam (farmers' association), told Land Conflict Watch. Another reason why the farmers are protesting is the low compensation offered by the government. Nehru added that more than 1,500 farmers have filed a writ petition in the Madras High Court. On July 25, 2020, farmers at Harur and Paapireddypatty protested against the project by holding prayers and performing 'rituals of curse' targeting politicians who supported the project.

Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Demand for more compensation than promised, Refusal to give up land for the project, Complaint against procedural violations, Opposition against environmental degradation

Region Classification

Type of Land


Type of Common Land

Forest and Non-Forest

Total investment involved (in Crores):


Type of investment:

Year of Estimation

Has the Conflict Ended?

When did it end?

Why did the conflict end?

Categories of Legislations Involved in the Conflict

Land Acquisition Laws, Environmental Laws

Legislations/Policies Involved

Whether claims/objections were made as per procedure in the relevant statute

What was the claim(s)/objection(s) raised by the community? What was the decision of the concerned government department?

Legal Processes and Loopholes Enabling the Conflict:

Controversial land acquisition by the government , Incorrect estimation of compensation, Violation of environmental laws

Legal Status:

In Court

Status of Case In Court

Whether any adjudicatory body was approached

Name of the adjudicatory body

Name(s) of the Court(s)

Madras High Court, Supreme Court

Case Number

2019(3)C TC 113, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 1005

Major Human Rights Violations Related to the Conflict:

Whether criminal law was used against protestors

Official name of the criminal law. Did the case reach trial?

Reported Details of the Violation:

Date of Violation

Location of Violation

Nature of Protest


Government Departments Involved in the Conflict:

National Highways Authority of India, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways

PSUs Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Government Authorities for Comments?

Name, Designation and Comment of the Government Authorities Approached

Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Corporate Parties for Comments?

Name, Designation and Comment of Corporate Authorities Approached

Other Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Resources Related to Conflict

  • News Articles Related to the Conflict:
  • Documents Related to the Conflict:
  • Links Related to the Conflict:
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Documented By

Manasi Karthik

Reviewed By

Manasi Karthik

Updated By

Manasi Karthik

Edited By

Manasi KarthikLand Conflict Watch

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