Drive to Kanniyakumari to be feast to the eyes soon

NHAI inks pact with Forest department in five districts to plant 29,500 saplings

Amid widespread criticism of felling trees while widening roads, the Madurai unit of National Highways Authority of India plans to provide green cover along Madurai-Kanniyakumari four-lane highway at a cost of ₹8.02 crore.

The NHAI has entered into separate memorandums of understanding with the District Forest Officers of Madurai, Virudhunagar, Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli and Kanniyakumari, to plant 29,500 saplings on both sides of the 243.17-km highway. “This is the first time that such a massive planting of saplings under the Green Highways Policy-2015 has been taken up in Tamil Nadu by NHAI,” an official told The Hindu.

With its failure to raise trees in several areas, the NHAI wants to rope in experts to handle planting of saplings and raising them and hence handed over the project to the Tamil Nadu Forest Department. The project is being implemented following discussions with the Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu and Principal Chief Conservator of Forests.

The avenue plantation is meant to mitigate environmental loss, check soil erosion, provide aesthetic look and shade to road users. The number of saplings planted would conform the guidelines of Indian Road Congress. The saplings will be planted in two rows to accommodate maximum number of trees along the highway.

The first row of trees would be of ornamental value. Selection of species would be based on local climatic condition and soil types – loamy soil, water-logged area and alkaline soil. The NHAI has recommended ‘mandarai,’ different types of ‘kondrai,’ ‘kaththi karuvel’ and gulmohar for the first row of trees that would be planted with a gap of three metres between them.

The second row of trees would be of ever-green species, mainly for providing shade. Trees with high crown, those retain their foliage for long periods, that have rapid growth and resist fungal and insect attack have been short-listed. Among them are marudhamaram, tamarind, jamun, ‘iluppai’ pungai, peepal, neem and Indian rosewood. These saplings would be planted with a spacing of 8-12 metres between them.

The saplings would be planted along the edges of the highway with sufficient width provided for future widening of the road to six lanes.

The DFOs have been given permission to set up temporary sheds, pipelines, sink borewells for drawing water, creating storage for water and providing security. Raising of nursery would begin during the next monsoon and the plantation of saplings is likely in the 9th or 10th month.

The NHAI would hand over 50% of the estimated cost while signing memorandums of understanding and 10% at the end of every year following joint inspection of the progress by a committee of NHAI and Forest department officials.

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