The finance ministry rejected the plan saying initiatives like highway greening should be the concern of the ministry of environment
GN Bureau | August 17, 2016
Ministry of road transport and highways, and national highways authority of India’s (NHAI) plan to spend Rs 5,000 crore on planting trees along the 6,000 km of highways has been rejected by the finance ministry, as per a report in Mint.
According to the report, the finance ministry rejected the plan saying that such initiatives should come under the environment ministry’s compensatory afforestation fund management and planning authority (CAMPA) which looks after social forestry and has already accumulated funds of Rs 38,000 crore.
Commenting on the ministry’s decision, AK Bhattacharya, managing director of green highway mission, said, “We will definitely come up with an alternate funding mechanism. Once we have some policy in place, we will explore other aspects for greening.”
India’s massive road construction is a high carbon releasing process and greening the highways is supposed to help the environment. The green highway mission comes in handy for India’s ambitious pledge to the world – that it will reduce greenhouse gases emissions intensity of its GDP by 33-35 percent by 2030. In its intended nationally determined contributions (INDC) submitted to the UN, India has pledged to create an additional carbon sink (that is, forest, soil and ocean; basically anything that absorbs more carbon than it releases) of 2.5-3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide through additional tree cover.
The purpose of green highway mission apart from plantation of trees along highways is also to conserve the trees that are cut/destroyed during construction or widening of the highways. Earlier this year, Governance Now paid a visit to Runakta, a small village in the outskirts of Agra city. Here, the NHAI told us that they had successfully transplanted 951 trees from NH-2 (between Delhi and Kolkata). However, the reality came out to be pretty different. On our field visit we found that only 428 trees had been transplanted, out of which many were destroyed due to termites.
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The decision taken by the finance ministry has come as a setback for Nitin Gadkari, minister of road, who earlier this year had announced employment opportunities in rural areas to the youth for raising massive green cover required along the proposed highways.
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