Implemented well, the policy, which makes plantation along the highways an integral part of highway construction, can bring India's 100,000-km long national highway network and 1.5 lakh km state highways under green cover, and help the country inch closer towards its target of having 30 per cent of its land mass under green cover.
India is expected to make pollution control and mitigation commitments at the United Nations Climate Change Conference planned in Paris from November 30 to December 11, and the Green Highways policy can only help.
Broadly speaking, the policy takes care of two major impediments to the development of greenery along national highways in the country. The first is land availability, and the second is resources to plant, transplant, beautify and maintain such greenery on a long-term basis. The policy calls for setting aside 1 per cent of the total project cost towards a national plantation fund, thereby taking care of the resource requirement. Since the government plans to execute Rs 1 lakh crore worth road projects in a year, the annual corpus for the green fund is estimated to be in the range of Rs 1,000 crore.
For all new projects, the land that is required for plantation purpose will be part of the detailed project report itself, thus avoiding land acquisition trouble in future.
As the policy states, the vision is to develop eco friendly national highways with the participation of local communities, NGOs, private sector institutions, and government agencies including forest departments. It also calls for scientific selection of the species that needs to be planted in each patch of the roadside land.
The policy thus, opens huge opportunities to a large number of players interested in forestry. There will be incentives and awards to recognise the best agency in terms of performance every year. The green cover will also become one of the parameters to rate the national highway or state highways in future.
Overall, it fits into the country's Green India Mission and is capable of quantifying the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in a sustained manner.
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