The Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways and Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME), Nitin Gadkari has underlined the need for generating awareness and education for the masses at large towards reducing road fatalities. He said that ecology and sustainability were most important for human life.
Launching the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and MoRTH national awareness campaign on ‘Prevention of Human and Animal Mortality on Highways’ via video conference on Friday, the minister indicated that ethics, economy and ecology are the three most important pillars of the country.
Gadkari informed that India witnesses nearly 500,000 road accidents every year, in which about 150,000 lives were lost. He said he was endeavouring to bring down these figures by 20-25 per cent by March 2021. Over 5,000 black spots were identified and the process for their rectification, including temporary and permanent measures, was being carried out on an urgent basis. Standard operating procedures (SOPs) regarding rectification of black spots for taking up short-term and long-term permanent measures were already issued. Till date, temporary measures on 1,739 newly identified black spots and permanent measures on 840 newly identified black spots were taken.
The minister informed that road safety measures would focus on stretches of National Highways such as rectification of black spots, traffic calming measures, crash barriers, repairing, rehabilitation and reconstruction of dilapidated and narrow bridges, road safety audit, reduction of fatalities on vulnerable roads, highway patrolling and safety during construction.
Gadkari also informed that his ministry was conscious about the need to protect animal life on the roads. He said the ministry has requested all agencies to follow the provisions of the manual titled Eco Friendly Measures to Mitigate Impacts of Linear Infrastructure on Wildlife issued by the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, for making road or any linear infrastructure. He requested NGOs and social organisations to locate black spots for animals on the roads, and inform his ministry, so that necessary corrective action could be initiated.
The minister also informed that the ministry and its agencies were spending good amounts on creating infrastructure conducive to animal use. He cited the example of Nagpur-Jabalpur Highway, where a viaduct has been constructed for Rs 13 billion to create right-of-way for tigers. Similar exercises were being undertaken in forest area of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, etc., he said. These include conducting studies for road engineering favourable to animal movement, constructing underpasses, elevated corridors, etc.
Gadkari said that MoRTH had always advocated construction of elevated roads and underpasses or overpasses as ecological wildlife corridors to avoid fragmentation of wild animals’ habitats and abided by the compensatory afforestation schemes in lieu of trees required to be felled. Considering no dilution in measures taken earlier, the new road projects to come up would adopt green rating system for roads, which were already approved by the Indian Road Congress (IRC) Council for publication. Further, guidelines would also be drafted for green roads specific to India’s bio geography.