Green road corridors planned

If Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari’s plan for Rs. 5,00,000 crore of investment in highways in the next four years comes off, Rs. 5,000 crore of this will go to the Green Highways policy.

The plan is to grow three layers of trees and bushes. The first will be of bushes so that if a vehicle goes off the road, it does not collide with something life-threatening. The second will be of medium-sized trees and the last will be of tall fruit trees. Only species indigenous to the area would be planted, Mr. Chhibber said.

“The benefits are manifold… The community will gain in terms of huge employment opportunities and entrepreneurship development, and there will be huge environmental benefits also… The local community will get the rights to the non-timber produce from the trees,” the Ministry said in a statement.

A wide cross-section of agencies can participate in the project. Those eligible include government or private companies, NGOs registered as societies, trusts or private limited non-profit companies, and producer organisations.

The empanelment of these companies will begin shortly, according to the Ministry. Thereafter, the bidding for stretches of the highways will take place.

“Planting is best done in the beginning May or June. Our target is to have everything under way so that planting can start in at least one-tenth of the area envisaged by that time,” Mr. Chhibber said.

The government has also laid down strict targets for the companies growing and maintaining trees. The minimum survival rate is 90 per cent. Only after reaching this level will a company get the required money from the Ministry in the next year.

The government is concentrating on working with green contractors, separate from the brick and mortar ones. The projects will also be awarded on small stretches of 8-10 km. Pilot projects, to be carried out in each State, will first take place where there has been a good response from the local community, Mr. Chhibber said.

“It is best to go small and get it right in the beginning to show that the policy works and then scale it up,” Mr. Chhibber said.