The proposed eight-lane Salem Chennai expressway has been mired in controversies and conflicts sinceits inception, not only in terms of land acquisition, but also since documents revealed that the Rs. 10,000 crore project may have been officially conceived and cleared in just 6 days, and based on a recommendation by a World Bank blacklisted consultant.
According to Nityanand Jayaraman, a researcher and writer focusing on human and environmental rights violations based in Chennai, this project had no mention in any publicly available policy document before February 2018, although the approved list of Phase 1 projects by the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways was published in October 2017 . Jayaraman’s article in The News Minute, dated August 12, 2018 traces the chain of events and raises questions on due process. 
Since details of the project came into public domain, there have been protests by farmers over grabbing of agricultural and communal land. The initial project covered 2791 hectares, which has since then undergone multiple revisions and now in 2018 stands at1900 hectares of land . The protests, which started with the farmers who would be directly affected, soon turned into a full-blown movement, with the arrest of farmers, activists and political cadre. Initially limited to landowners, the protest is now seeing the involvement of political leaders, as well. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Communist Party of India have announced protests and slammed the government for not consulting the landowners and creating an atmosphere of uncertainty and anxiety. Human rights activists planned a fact-finding mission on alleged police excesses against landowners and protesters.  
While farmers argue that the 37-km stretch from Ariyanur to Manjuwadi Pass on the Dharmapuri district border — a lush belt of coconut and arecanut farms, paddy and horticulture fields — will be adversely impacted once the project gets under way, the State government’s view is that a small group of farmers is being instigated by social activists and Opposition parties.  The government also claims that out of the 1900 hectares of land needed to be acquired, only 400 hectares is government poramboke land, and that media is blowing up the protest out of proportions.  However, according to S. Balaraman, deputy president of Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam, Tiruvannamalai district, ‘It is not as though the farmers will lose only their agricultural lands. These will be acquired along with their homes. A number of villages will be wiped out, and access to many others will be cut off". 
The road will pass through 159 villages in 14 taluks of five districts – Kanchipuram, Tiruvannamalai, Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri and Salem.  On August 21, 2018, responding to several petitions filed on this issue, the Madras High Court, directed the state and central governments to not dispossess landowners of their property. This was due to several petitions which had been filed on this issue. However, this was not an order to stop the project.
Many activists and locals have been threatened and harassed by the police and district administrations.  One of the reasons why people have been so vehemently protesting is because there exist already two national highways connecting the two cities of Salem and Chennai. Hence to construct another highway, which for the purpose of reducing travel time by 3 hours, will affect nearly 150 villages and destroy hundreds of acres of coconut, betel nut, banana and mango plantations, and furthermore, which was approved within 24 hours without due process, seems to show that the lives and livelihoods of the people being affected aren’t being taken into any consideration . Accordingly to environmental activist G Sundarrajan of Poovulagin Nanbargal (Friends of Earth) the expressway would destroy many waterbodies and reserve forests that are home to some endangered species. “Why so much of nature has to be destroyed for a road? When the whole world is talking about climate change and taking steps to protect our planet, we are building a highway that cuts through mountains and forests,” he said. 
These protests have been met with violence and arrests from the authorities, including several arrests of farmers and local activists as well as renowned environmentalists such as Piyush Manush and Mansoor Ali Khan for speaking against the project . Farmers along the expressway have also alleged harassment by the district authorities .
On September 4, 2018, the Madras High Court dismissed a petition challenging the constitutional validity of the land acquisitional process . Many villages in the three districts of Salem, Dharmapuri and Tiruvannamalai passed unanimous resolutions to scrap the project on August 15 as well as October 2, 2018.  The conflict remains a complex ongoing one, with court cases, attempted self-immolation and protests, harassments and violence, and only time will tell whether it can be considered a success in environmental justice.