NGT Reprimands NHAI For Not Maintaining Green Cover Along Highways
National Green Tribunal (NGT) reprimanded National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) for not being able to maintain the green cover along highways all over the country. A bench was set up on Wednesday, October 3, headed by Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel who is the current NGT chairperson. The bench reviewed construction projects along highways and blamed NHAI for allowing marriage lawns and other buildings along the highway instead of planting trees.
The issue came into light when NGO Society for Protection of Culture, Heritage, Environment, Traditions and Promotion of National Awareness filed a plea to seek execution of NGT order on 5 September 2017 in which NHAI agreed to follow the green highway policy of 2015. The policy states that one per cent cost of national highway projects will be used for plantation of trees. As quoted by livemint, the bench was visibly unhappy and told NHAI that the policies drafted by them and progress have shown is all a fraud because trees are not visible and instead there are marriage halls and huge buildings when it is clearly mentioned that no construction can take place within 30 metres of the highway on both sides.
According to the plea, NGT had asked state governments and local authorities to encourage plantation of trees which would help in improving the environment and air quality. Some states including Delhi and Haryana were specifically directed by NGT to make sure that plantation is being done along the highways, but even this has not been put into effect.
Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, NGT chairperson went as far as to say that the paperwork submitted by NHAI was fraudulent and no work done by them is visible to the public because instead of trees there are marriage halls and buildings. Reportedly, It is a shocking revelation that NHAI has been so ineffective in tree plantation during the times when the forest cover is needed the most.
Green Highways Policy
The green highways policy was launched in 2015 to help the environment while simultaneously generating employment through the plantation of trees. As reported by The Hindu, the policy was made to successfully achieve the vision of eco-friendly highways with the involvement of community and people and driven towards sustainable development and growth of the economy. The policy was expected to achieve the forest cover target of the country reducing air and noise pollution at the same time.
The NGO is very active in protecting large-scale felling of trees due to any reason and have managed to create great impact through their pleas to NGT. Their effort during the Delhi Housing plan was admirable as they took into account all the environmental changes that would happen if trees were removed in such large scale. The solutions included replanting the removed trees in other areas and planting of new saplings to curb the negative impact on the environment.
The road network of India is the second largest in the world with roads spanning a total of 56 lakh km. The national highways take up around 1,01,011 km of the road which is roughly 1.8% of the total road network, but at the same time, the highways carry 40% of the total traffic. With such large numbers, the plan to plant trees along the highway seemed to be the environmental solution which needed implementation.