The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has issued directions for preparing an action plan for planting trees along highways and shrubs of low height on the median.
It ordered to ensure that no construction could take place in the area meant for green cover.
The panel directed acquiring land for afforestation and transplantation, instead of tree felling, and earmarking the percentage of the project cost under CSR initiatives.
“If a national highway is passing through a forest area, then a wall fence of adequate height should be constructed alongside the road to prevent any wild animal from coming to the highway, so that any accidental deaths can be avoided,” the tribunal directed.
Recently, the Union government suggested to the Supreme Court to allow construction of an elevated road on the national highway passing through Bandipur Tiger Reserve to avoid with the night traffic ban there.
“We are informed that there are about 700 ongoing national highway projects. The same are either under the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) or the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), under the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH). There is no reason why tree plantation should not be done at appropriate locations within the right of way and in the land earmarked for afforestation,” a bench headed by chairman Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said.
The green panel relied upon the Indian Road Congress' ‘Guidelines on Landscaping and Tree Plantation-2009 and Green Highways (Plantation and Maintenance) Policy, 2015, to point out that those already envisioned developing eco-friendly national highways with community participation for improving and maintaining the quality of green cover.
It gave one month's time to the NHAI and NHIDCL to prepare the action plan and held the top brass of both the authorities responsible for implementing it within three months of finalisation.
It sought a compliance report by February, 2019.
Among others, the panel directed for designating a team of three persons, comprising of the project director, regional officer and other notified officers for each individual stretch or highway project to ensure removal of encroachment at the highway and ensuring green belt on the lands adjacent to and abutting the national highways.
“If need be, a Special Task Force may be constituted for removal of encroachment on national highways,” it said.
The tribunal directed to ensure the entrance of any building whether residential or commercial not directly open up on highways.
“There should not be any kind of illegal encroachments on the National highways by dhabas/restaurants. Service lane should only be at the exit point of the national highways,” it said.
The tribunal also suggested that the highway administration may consider formulating a policy prohibiting erection or re-erection of buildings within specified distance of the national highways and allowing access only through by-lanes.