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Union Minister of Road Transport & Highways and Shipping Shri Nitin Gadkari launched the Green Highways (Plantation, Transplantation, Beautification & Maintenance) Policy, 2015 at a function organized in New Delhi today. The aim of the policy is to promote greening of Highway corridors with participation of the community, farmers, private sector, NGOs, and government institutions. 

Speaking on the occasion, the Minister said that 1% of the total project cost of all highways projects will be kept aside for the highway plantation and its maintenance. He said that about Rs. 1000 crore per year will be available for plantation purpose. He also said that this policy will generate employment opportunities for about five lakh people from rural areas. He added that there will be 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 good will be awarded. He called for suggestions from people for smooth implementation of the policy. He also asked the state governments to start programmes on similar lines. Shri Gadkari said that 1200 road side amenities will also be established. The Green Highway Policy will help in making India pollution free, the minister added. It will also help in curtailing the number of road accidents in India. He said that the vision of the policy is to provide dignified employment to local people and communities. 

Addressing the conference, Minister of State for Road Transport & Highways and Shipping Shri Pon. Radhakrishnan said that it is a historic occasion and a noble initiative that depicts the Government’s concern for conservation of environment. He said the present Government has taken various initiatives to cut pollution by promoting bio-fuel and e-rickshaws, and now the Green Highways Policy has been launched for roadside plantation in this respect. 

Speaking at the conference, Secretary, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways Shri Vijay Chhibber said that the vision of the policy is to involve the local communities in the plantation work. He said that the National Forest Policy envisages 33% of the geographical area should be under forest or tree cover, but the notified forest cover is only about 22%. The implementation of new Green Highways Policy can help in bridging this gap, he added. He said that the emphasis is not only on the trees planted, but also on how many of them survive and are useful for the local communities. 

Key features of Green Highways Policy 2015

  • Promote greening and development eco-friendly National Highway corridors across the country with participation of farmers, private sector and government institutions including Forest Department.
  • It will address the issues that lie in the road of development and pave the way towards sustainable development.
  • Objective: To reduce the impact of air pollution and dust by planting trees and shrubs along the National Highways. They will act as natural sink for air pollutants and arrest soil erosion at the embankment slopes.
  • Stake holders: Contracts for greening highways will be given to NGOS, agencies, private companies and government organisations. These stakeholders will be responsible for the survival and health of trees.
  • Planting of trees in any particular area will depend on the soil suitability and climatic conditions.
  • Monitoring Agency: It will be responsible for monitoring the plantation status on continuous basis by carrying out the site visit for field verification to check survival, growth and size of plantation and maintenance of the same.
  • Performance audit of executing agencies will be regularly conducted by the agency on an Annual basis. New contracts will be awarded to the agencies based on their past performance audit.

Implications: The policy will strike a balance between highways development and environmental protection. It will also help in providing employment to 5 lakh people of the rural areas.