To expand its afforestation drive and increase tree cover in the state, Maharashtra government's Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra Ltd (FDCM) has inked a MoU with National Highway Authority of India to plant trees along the national highways passing through the state.
The project involves planting trees in the next two years along 10,000 km national highways that pass through the state beginning from March 2017.
While the state FDCM will plant the trees, the NHAI will bear the cost of the project, states the MoU.
Maharashtra Forest minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said afforestation is the government's mission and it is taking it very seriously.
"We are planting trees on both sides of the National Highways taken for upgradation. There is only one planet in the universe where life exists. And life exists because of trees. Thousands of crores have been spent in trying to search for life on Mars but we have not found anything as yet in spite of so much spending. Humans cannot exist without trees," Mungantiwar told PTI.
As per the agreement, the demarcation and fixing of boundary pillars of the said lands (under national highways) will be done by the NHAI.
The FDCM will carryout the plantation on the said lands falling within the boundaries of the state.
The Ministry of Surface Transport has in its Green Highways Policy 2015 has provided for creating Green Corridors along the national highways.
The policy document lays down the criteria for plantation of trees and shrubs, taking into account the traffic visibility, planting trees along the curves and minimum distances of planting line from the toe or berm of the highway.
The Maharashtra government has agreed to the
suggestion of the Centre to plant fruit bearing trees along the national highways.
As per the pact, The entire cost of plantation and maintenance shall be borne by NHAI and a designated tree officer will be appointed who will accord permission for felling of trees.
It further adds that besides this, the other benefits such as timber, fruits and other produce in any form whatsoever accruing as a result of the plantation shall be the sole property of the NHAI and the FDCM shall have no claim over it.
Among the trees that have been shortlisted for plantation include - Neem, Tamarind, Coconut, Bamboo (shrub), Ber, Custard Apple, Babul and others.
The project envisages planting trees on 4 lakh acres of land along the national highways in the country in the next 10 years.