In the last one year, Narendra Modi-led NDA government has accorded top priority on speed and use of eco-friendly green technologies for rural roads. With Prime Minister Office (PMO) monitoring the development, Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) fine-tuned its flagship scheme Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), which was launched in 2000 by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The progress is visible as during 2014-15, 36,800 km roads were constructed under PMGSY and average comes to 101 km per day. “In the last decade average was 67 km per day. So far 1.78 lakh km roads have been constructed which covers 63 percent of the total target. With this speed, we hope to cover remaining 1.11 lakh km in 4-5 years,” says Rajesh Bhushan, Joint Secretary, MoRD and Director General, National Rural Road Development Agency (NRRDA).
“Another remarkable feature added to PMGSY is huge plantation on both sides of roads with the support of MNREGA. With convergence of this scheme, 50 lakh trees were planted across the country which will be maintained from the funds of MNREGA,” he adds.
There were no engineering guidelines for plantations so far. Now the Indian Roads Congress (IRC) has issued the guidelines keeping in view the condition of soil and other factors. Thus, plantation on the flanks of rural roads would give a qualitative push to eco-friendly environment.
New technologies and materials
The MoRD has issued detailed directions to the states to use new technologies and materials. “Till 2014-15, 4,535 km rural roads were made of using new technologies and materials like cold-mix technology which has been developed and patented by Central Road Research Institute (CRRI), waste plastic and fly ash. More jute and coir are being used to make rural roads economic and eco-friendly,” says DG, NRRDA.
Presently 15 percent of total rural roads use these new technologies and materials. Over 4,500 km roads using these technologies were constructed in Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Sikkim and West Bengal.
Recently IRC released the Rural Road Specification Code, 2014, detailing the use of locally available material such as jute, coir and waste such as fly ash, plastic rubbish, paper mill sludge and construction and demolition debris in laying rural roads.
The need for such a code stems from the fact that rural roads are typically paved with bitumen or concrete. But underneath that smooth, black strip lies a potential economic and environment disaster.
Cold-mix technology is proving very cost effective as it is in liquid form. It reduces pollution and can be used in any season thereby extending working period for road construction. Moreover, such roads can be opened for traffic immediately.
Use of plastic waste technology is also catching up. Credit goes to R Vasudevan, Dean of Thiagarajar College of Engineering in Tamil Nadu, who is the pioneer of plastic roads in India. The innovative technology uses usually 10 tonnes of bitumen to lay one km single-lane road which is not only water-proof but uses fewer stones and other raw materials. Above all the process helps in consuming waste materials.
According to experts, use of aggregates and bitumen in such large quantities can do irreparable damage to the environment, as they are non-renewable minerals. Worse, mining of sand, gravel and crushed stone remains largely unchecked. They are the most mined minerals in the country.
Bhushan says, “Apart from plastic waste technologies, we are also using Jute and Coir- Geo Textile in some states. States like Rajasthan and Karnataka use iron-copper and marble slurry which are cost effective technologies.”
“Under PMGSY and Gramin Gaurav Path, we are focusing on quality materials and cost effective technologies. Presently, we are constructing roads with 11-12 new technologies including plastic waste and marble slurry,” says Younus Khan, Rajasthan PWD Minister.
Engineers use different technologies to reinforce soil’s load bearing capacity. In rural roads a thin layer of aggregates covered with geotextiles — woven fabrics, such as jute and coir mats and fly ash, iron-copper-marble slurry are used to strengthen the soil. It also reduces consumption of aggregates. Jute is being widely used in West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh.
“Presently, we are using these new technologies such as marble slurry, plastic waste, RBI-81 and cell-filled concrete for 60 ongoing works. In 2014-15, for 60 works Rs 61 crore was earmarked for use of innovative technologies,” explains GL Rao, Additional Secretary (Roads) and Chief Engineer, Rajasthan PWD.