In the last five years, 4,358 km of National Highway (NH) have been constructed in the mountainous and border areas with an expenditure of Rs 70,733 crore, Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari stated in a written reply in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.
Among the mountainous states and border areas, Uttarakhand has the highest number of ongoing projects with 83 number of developmental works. Based on their stage of progress, these works are targeted to be completed between 2021 and 2023.
Besides, 34 projects are undergoing construction in Jammu and Kashmir, 51 in Assam, 47 in Arunachal Pradesh and two in Ladakh.
Answering question on the number of trees planted to compensate for felling of trees for widening of existing National Highways, Gadkari stated, “Total number of plants planted by National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) along the National Highways from 2017-2018 to 2021-22 (till October, 2021) is 223.94 lakh.
A total of 55.10 lakh plants have been planted in 94 projects, completed by March 2021. “Development of National Highways involves cutting of trees in the Right of Way acquired by MoRTH. It is, however, ensured that bare minimum tree felling is carried out for widening of existing National Highways,” the reply read, adding, “to compensate the ecological loss, median and road side plantation is being carried out either by the contractor as a scope of agreement or through Forest Department as deposit work.”
In addition, plantation jobs are also being carried out by private agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGO) through competitive bidding, apart from the compensatory afforestation carried out by the Forest Department for statutory compliance under FCA 1980 and local Law.
Tree felling is carried out either by Forest Department, Forest Corporation or by the Contractor after obtaining tree felling permission from the appropriate authorities under Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and local laws from forest and the non-forest area. Data on trees cut is maintained at project level.
Since the declaration of all lanes of fee plazas on National Highways as “FASTag lane of the fee plaza” in February, 2021, there has been significant increase in user fee collection throughout the country, the Minister said in another reply.
“The fee collection from February 15 to February 28, 2021 was Rs 104 crore per day approximately as compared to Rs 80 crore per day approximately in the month of February, 2020,” his reply read.