The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH), Government of India has promulgated Green Highways (Plantations, Transplantations, Beautification and Maintenance) Policy – 2015 on 29th September 2015 to develop green corridors along National Highways for sustainable environment and inclusive growth. The policy envisions “development of eco-friendly National Highways with participation of the communities, farmers, NGOs, private sector, institutions, government agencies and the Forest Departments for economic growth and development in a sustainable manner."
Highways are acknowledged as the growth engine of economic development. Interstate road infrastructure facilitates trade, promotes tourism and bridges the geographical divide amongst cities. Many a times this development comes at the cost of disturbance to ecological balance. Clearance of forest and tree felling activities are inevitable consequences of highways development. Although to counter these losses Highways projects are bundled with median and avenue plantations but they are seldom equivalent to the natural ecosystem existing before the development. The situation becomes critical with incessant movement of vehicles on these roads contributing further in release of Greenhouse gases and other suspended particulate matters. High level of Greenhouse gases and extended dust particles in air pose an imminent health threat for the commuters and also endangers the biodiversity of the region. Under such circumstances it is important to take proactive measure for pollution containment on highways. Green corridor works as vegetation buffer around the pollution source and helps in absorption of GHG gases and collection of dust particles. It also reduces noise pollution and provides much needed shade on glairing hot roads during summer. Plantations arrest soil erosion at the embankment slopes prevent glare from the headlight of incoming vehicles and moderate the effect of wind and incoming radiation. MoRTH has appointed National Green Highways Mission - NHAI as the nodal agency for overall planning, implementation and monitoring of Green Highways projects. To ensure quality plantation and maintenance, a corpus “Green Fund" with 1% of the Total Project Cost (TPC) of all National Highways projects has been created.
As its first step National Green Highways Mission (NGHM) has decided to frame comprehensive guidelines for implementation of Green Highways Projects. The Guidelines for Green Highways Project will assist MoRTH/NHAI officials, plantation agencies and other stakeholders in effective implementation and monitoring of plantation, transplantation, beautification, and landscaping and maintenance activities along National Highways. These guidelines will be applicable for all upcoming and developed National Highways regardless of their administrative agency (MoRTH, NHAI, NHIDCL, State PWDs, RDC, BRO etc.).
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