The standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has granted approval for the construction of the second phase of the four-lane Bengaluru-Chennai expressway project, which requires an investment of Rs 16,000 crore. This 262-kilometer-long project, initiated by the Central Government, will begin from Hoskote on the outskirts of Bengaluru and pass through Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu. The expressway is expected to reduce travel time between the two major cities by approximately three hours, from the current six-hour journey.
The recent approval from NBWL pertains to the 7.1-kilometer stretch of the project that passes through the forests of Chittoor Forest Division and Rayala Elephant Reserve. The expressway route includes sections within the Palamaner and Tekumanda reserve forests, which fall under the Chittoor division. These areas are designated as part of the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of Koundinya Wildlife Sanctuary and Rayala Elephant Reserve, falling under the National Highways Authority of India's (NHAI) Bharatmala project.
Strict adherence to prescribed guidelines is mandated for the road-building agency during the project's execution. The designated area can only be utilized for the expressway itself and not for any commercial purposes. The Forest Department will supervise all diversion work, and the agency must demarcate the areas of diversion before commencing construction. Excavation work in the surrounding forest land for earth collection is prohibited.
As part of the approval, the agency undertaking the project will need to deposit a sum of Rs 1,698 lakh as a wildlife conservation plan. Additionally, 2% of the project cost must be allocated for the conservation of the elephant habitat, aiming to address potential human-elephant conflicts.