The government launched its Green Highways (Plantation, Transplantation, Beautification & Maintenance) Policy 2015 on Tuesday, the aim of which is to help the environment, help local communities, and generate employment by planting trees along all the highways in the country. The target for the first year is to plant trees along 6,000 km of highways.
“The Green Highway Policy will help in making India pollution free. It will also help in curtailing the number of road accidents in India. The vision of the policy is to provide dignified employment to local people and communities,” Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport and Highways, said during the release of the policy.
“So far, there has been a lack of funds and lack of land banks. Under this policy, every year 1 per cent of the total cost of highway projects will go the Green Highways Fund. That works out to around Rs 1,000 crore every year. The Ministry is also focusing on land acquisition for this,” Vijay Chhibber, Secretary, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) said, also speaking at the function.
The target for the first year is to plant trees along 6,000 km of highways, for which 12,000 hectares of land is already available, he added.
The vision of the policy is “to develop eco-friendly National Highways with the participation of the community, farmers, NGOs, private sector, institutions, government agencies and the Forest Department for economic growth and development in a sustainable manner”, according to the policy document.
“The objectives of the policy include developing a policy framework for the plantation of trees along highways, reducing the impact of air pollution and dust, providing shade on glaring hot roads during summer, reducing the impact of noise pollution and soil erosion, preventing the glare from the headlights of incoming vehicles, and generating employment,” Alkesh Sharma, Joint Secretary, MoRTH said.
“At the moment, 40 per cent of the traffic in India is on the National Highways, which comprise just 20 per cent of the roads,” Mr Gadkari said. The most important issue is air and water pollution, he added.
The planting of trees will also help in achieving the country’s forest cover target, Mr Chhibber said. “The National Forest Policy mandate is for a forest cover of 33 per cent of the country’s land area. Currently, only 22 per cent is covered by forests. This difference can be met only through the planting of trees outside the forest areas,” he said.
The Policy envisages a strict system of auditing whereby money will be released by the government to the empanelled agencies only if they have achieved a survival rate of 90 per cent the previous year. “It is not about how many trees we plant, but how many trees survive and how useful this is for the local community,” Mr Chhibber said, adding that the policy will focus on planting indigenous trees only.
“There will be a strong monitoring mechanism in place by using ISRO’s Bhuvan and GAGAN satellite systems. Every planted tree will be counted and auditing will be done. The agencies performing well will receive annual awards,” Mr Gadkari said.
The first round of empanelment of organisations that will undertake the planting and maintenance of the trees will begin next week.