India set to paint its national highways green
Ashok Kumar/OneWorld South Asia
To increase its green cover and fight the rising menace of pollution the Indian government has embarked on an ambitious scheme of painting its national highways green. Nitin Gadkari, the country’s Road Transport and Highways Minister called for Environment Economy as a possible solution to the challenge of pollution, climate change and unemployment.
Emphasising on the need of turning the available waste land into economically viable green areas, the minister called upon the civil society, the corporates and the common people for the joining the green drive on the roads. “City waste should be used for constructing roads. We are trying to use mountains of waste in Delhi (Ghazipur dump) to construct an easterly-westerly bypass for decongesting Delhi roads,” he said.
Speaking at a workshop organised by the newly constituted National Green Highways Mission (GHM), the minister said that plantation exercise on one lakh km of highways has the potential of transforming rural economy by creating jobs for about one million people.
Since greening of one km will provide employment to about then people, the first phase of 1500 kms will provide employment to 15000 people.
Under the mission, the government plans to provide green cover to the national highways with the financial provision of one per cent of the road construction and linking it with MGNREGA to boost the rural economy. Seven states have already signed MoUs for greening the National Highways.
Launching the first phase of plantation drive on 1,500 km of National Highways at a cost of about Rs 300 crore, the Minister said that the programme has the potential of successfully integrating flagship social schemes like Start-Up India, Skill India and Swachh Bharat.
“For the first time we have initiated a move towards conceptualising green highways. Forest ministry has decided to utilise wasteland for plantation. Every vacant place should be planted with trees,” he said.
Raising concern over the loss of green cover for development projects like widening of roads, Gadkari said govt was studying global best practices for transplantation. Stating safety and greenery as the biggest priorities, the minister said due collaboration is being sought from research think tanks like the Indian Institutes of Technology for bridging the gap between environment degradation and development.
Taking note of the lack of research atmosphere within the government system, the minister laid stress on roping experts for delivering better results. “Even engineers do clerical jobs. We are roping in IITs for research on road projects and looking for best transplantation expertise from countries like Canada. It is high time we transplant trees instead of uprooting them,” he said.
The minister also launched a mobile app to facilitate digital monitoring of green activities. The app will have the feedback from general public. The use of ICT tools will bring value to the monitoring mechanism of the green drive.
The ministry is also in the process of institutionalising awards for green efforts along the highways.
NHAI Chairman Raghav Chandra said Green Highways Mission is an answer to the debate between environment and development. "GHM is set to roll out suitable plantation along the highways. We have set aside one per cent of our project cost for transplantation, plantation, beautification and maintenance. The maintenance of these plantations will generate substantial livelihood opportunities."
Highlighting the importance of industry in making the green mission successful, the Green Highways Mission Director A K Bhattacharyya said that both private and public sector entities like Power Finance Corporation, Indian Oil Corporation and Coal India have come forward for adopting some stretches of the National Highways.