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India mulls over ‘Tree plantation clause’ in a bid to get clearance for Rs. 30,000 crore road projects

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Green-Corridor-along-Indian-NH

In a bid to get clearance for road projects worth 30,000 crore, which are stuck due to environmental issues, Indian government has come up with another proposal – tree-lining of 140,000 km of nation highways.

Urban minister for roads, transport and highways, Nitin Gadkari, has proposed introduction of a ‘tree plantation’ clause in highway contracts. According to this clause, project developers will be made responsible for the salvaging of trees along highways with additional provision for plantation. Green corridor project will be looked after by a dedicated green agency that’ll operate from its headquarters at the Transport Bhawan in Delhi.

The estimates of any widening scheme on national highways will include the provision for transplantation of trees. The maintenance of such transplanted trees will also be included in the contract documents of all BOT (buildoperate-transfer) and EPC (engineering-procurement-construction) projects. A total of 1% of the cost of construction would be kept aside only for the green initiatives”, said Gadkari.

He also claimed generation of jobs for local people in co-operation with NGOs, private sector and forest department.
Last month Gadkari had also announced upgrading of national highways, and had said,

All these express highways are going to be world class matching the quality and specifications in advanced nations and once completed would result in huge savings in fuel cost.

Before it, a couple of months ago, Nitin Gadkari had announced a plan to convert 90,000 kms of National Highway length into green corridors across the country through extensive campaigning and financing for fresh plantation. The project had a budget of worth Rs. 1,000 crore

Previous to this proposal, Minister of state for Road Transport and Highways, Radhakrishnan, in reply to Loksabha, had said that eight National Highways will be upgraded to world-class express highways under NHDP PHASE-VI. The project is worth Rs 16,680 crore on DBFOT ( design build, finance, operate, and transfer basis)

These eight highways include,

249 km Delhi-Chandigarh section of NH-1 and NH-22; 334 km of Bangalore-Chennai section of NH-4; 261 km of Delhi- Jaipur section of NH-8, and 277 km Kolkata-Dhanbad stretch of NH-2, 66 km Delhi-Meerut section of NH-58; 200 km of Delhi-Agra section of NH-2 and 135 km length of Eastern Peripheral Expressway.

With second largest road network, India has total 33 lakh kms in terms of total length. Out of the total, 92,851 kms length consist of National Highways. National highways make only 1.7 per cent of the road network but are presently carrying about 40 per cent of the total road traffic.

Announcements are integral part of populist politics in India. As a result of it, India has heard only announcements regarding social and economical development since Independence. Such giant projects with fat budget are opportunities to get funds sanctioned. Once the funds are sanctioned, the ground reality is ignored and money mostly ends in Swiss bank accounts of politicians. Corruption feeds on such big games. Moreover, public is hardly serious about deforestation or environmental issues. Except RTI activists and journalist, who are mostly interested in blackmailing, no one is going to ask government how much of the plantation survived or how much length was actually upgraded.

Environmental NGOs remain silent as they are also fed from the share. Rather, participation of NGOs and private sector facilitate corruption. India has one NGO for every 400 people, and the number of NGs is 250 times the number of government hospitals.

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