• Greening of highways can be linked to NREGA: Nitin Gadkari

    Government plans to provide ‘green canopy’ on national highways at an estimated cost of Rs 5,000 crore and may link that with NREGA to boost rural economy, creating a large number of jobs.

    “Roads must be viewed as green highway opportunities. Aside from the environmental and aesthetic aspects, they have a huge potential to generate jobs and can immensely benefit the rural economy. It may even be linked with the NREGA scheme,” Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari said here at an event.

    Addressing a workshop on Greening of Highways, jointly organised by NHAI and TERI, Gadkari said at least Rs 5,000 crore would be spent on providing a green cover on national highways which would be game changer for rural economy and can employ multitudes of women and children.

    Under the Green Highways policy, which will be implemented from June this year, the government has made it mandatory to set aside 1 per cent of the total project cost of any highways contract to a “Green Fund” corpus for plantation.

    Gadkari said that so far road contracts worth Rs 1.5 lakh crore have been awarded and the number would swell to Rs 2 lakh crore by next month.

    “In total we are going to award at least Rs 5 lakh crore worth of highways projects and Rs 5,000 crore would exclusively be meant for greening of highways and transplantation of trees,” he said.

    He invited investors to take up experimental projects. “If needed, we will provide technology and financial support as well to the selected agency. Three winners from each state every year will also be awarded for exemplary work.”

    The minister said the projects will be monitored through satellite technology with payments to be made only after the successful implementation.

    He said the government plans setting up 1,200 highway villages along the major sections which will house restaurants having local cuisines and cultural parks to showcase local produce. Talking about environmental benefits that will accrue from greening of highways, the minister urged the use of biofuels in machines to be employed in the project and organic fertilisers for transplanted trees.

    NHAI Chairman Raghav Chandra said: “We have set aside 1 per cent of our project cost for transplantation, plantation, beautification and maintenance. We have adequate funds and we intend to use it for setting SOPs, build capacity and imbibe the best global practises.”

    TERI Director General Ajay Mathur said: “Given the fact that land for new plantation is limited, additional tree cover would come out from approaches such as intense plantation along highways. The creation of the National Green Highways Mission will help identify and resolve challenges associated with the issue.” Erik Swoope Womens Jersey

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