New Delhi, May 2 :  With an aim of afforestation on the vast tracts of rail land, the Railways today joined hands with the forest departments of Punjab and Haryana for plantation of 5 lakh trees in the two states as part of the ‘Green India Mission’. After Punjab and Haryana, railways will sign similar agreements will other states to carry out the green mission. Terming the initiative as a “significant” one, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said a joint forest management comprising of Environment Ministry, the two state governments and railways will be responsible for tree plantation and maintenance at rail land. Railways signed agreements with the forest departments of both the states. He said Punjab has maximum irrigated land but still tree plantation is required there. Also read: Earth Day 2016: Envoys from 34 countries plant trees at Delhi park

“That is why we have this agreement today.” While about 5 lakh trees are to be planted in the two states, railways have a target of planting total 5 crore trees across along the track and rail land across the country. However, while the forest department will be involved in the plantation along the track on rail land boundary as well as maintenance and disposal of trees, such land will not be declared as protected forest so that it can be utilised at any time for railway projects. Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, who was present on the occasion, said “it is a historic agreement which envisages that railway will plant more trees. Our aim is to increase afforestation and not declaring those land as forest. We want more tree cover outside forest.”

As per the Environment Ministry plan, besides railway land, tree plantations will be carried out at both sides of the Ganga river and highways to increase green cover. Prabhu said that besides tree plantation, railways have finalised an action plan for restoring water bodies all over the rail land and water harvesting at all rail buildings. Stating that tree plantation will check soil erosion, Prabhu said there will be no exotic trees to be planted and only indigenous trees will be chosen for plantation on rail land. The trees suitable for western part will not be chosen in the eastern zone and both small and large varieties of trees will be planted, he said. Railways will also rope in NGOs for carrying out the plantation exercise.