The National Green Tribunal has directed the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) to maintain the mandatory green cover along national and state highways in order to maintain ecological balance.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar also directed the Delhi government, the Haryana and Rajasthan governments to ensure plantation on government land on both sides of NH-1 and NH-8.
“The NCT Delhi, State of Haryana and the State of Rajasthan are directed to ensure due to the plantation on government land which is adjacent/abutting national highway and such other state highways.
“The state governments and all local authorities shall also issue directions to all group housing societies, commercial plots and land that is allotted by the state government for any office, residential block, that they would plant trees along their boundaries and raise green belts around buildings,” the bench said.
The green panel directed the state governments and all local authorities to encourage tree plantation in public parks and other places wherever it is possible to plant additional trees to ensure a better environment and to provide greater protection to the ambient air quality prevailing in that area.
“Bringing up these trees and their maintenance shall be the responsibility of all local authorities, societies, etc,” the bench said.
The NHAI assured the tribunal that it would follow the Green Highways (Plantation, Transplantation, Beautification and Maintenance) Policy, 2015 in true spirit and substance.
The aim of the policy is to promote the greening of highway corridors with the participation of the community, farmers, private sector, NGOs, and government institutions.
It told the tribunal that it would ensure maintenance of green cover on both sides of the road where the land abutting the “national highway, roads, state national highway” was under construction and where government land is available after leaving the scope of expansion.
The Indian road network of 33 lakh km is the second largest in the world and stretches to about 96,000 km of NHS, which constitutes only 1.7 per cent of the road network but carries about 40 per cent of the total road traffic.
The NGT was hearing a plea filed by an NGO CHETNA seeking a direction for maintenance of mandatory 30 metres green cover on both sides of the national highways.
It had said that an effort should be made by NHAI and the state governments, through which national highways pass, to preserve and maintain the surrounding areas.
“As per norms adopted by the NHAI, mandatory green of 30 metres on each side of the highway/scheduled road and 50 metres on both sides of any bypass are to be maintained,” it had said.
The petition had also referred to the notifications issued by the Haryana government which said that no construction can be allowed within 30 metres on either side of national highways and 50 metres on both sides in case of the bypass road and it has to be maintained as a green area.
“The basic concept is that trees should be planted along the highway to maintain an ecological balance between pollution and development and the future need for expansion of roads and insulate the population living nearby from noise pollution, dust and emission pollution,” it said.