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NEW DELHI: Expansion of national highways (NHs) and construction of greenfield expressways in the past nine years have the potential to avoid over 32 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emission annually, a study by the Central Road Research Institute (CRRI) and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) has estimated.

The assessment has been done, taking into account both the construction period and operation phase of the NHs and expressways. The report comes as a breather for the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and the highway ministry at a time when these agencies are facing flak for felling of trees for laying new roads and widening of the existing ones.

The estimated avoidance of the CO2 emission has been arrived at considering different factors, including how the new and improved NHs, replacing congested and often circuitous routes, can considerably reduce fuel consumption. It has also included the impact of avenue plantations and compensatory afforestation.

The report titled “Assessment of Avoided CO2 Emissions during Construction and Operation of National Highways”, which was released by Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav on Wednesday, said the year-on-year length of NHs constructed since 2014 stands at 77,265 km. “Based on the CO2 avoided per km value estimated, it is concluded that the highway length constructed since 2014 till date can together potentially avoid 32.15 million tonnes of CO2 annually and 642.95 million tonnes of CO2 cumulatively in next 20 years. This is equivalent to CO2 sequestration by 36,149 million trees,” the report said.

The expert agencies collected data of 20 highway stretches — five greenfield and 15 brownfield stretches — including the Eastern Peripheral, Delhi-Meerut, Delhi-Dehradun and Ahmedabad-Vadodara expressways besides Delhi-Agra, Panipat-Jalandhar and Pune-Solapur highways.

According to the report, in the case of these 20 projects, it is estimated that the total fuel consumption would be about 41.2 billion litres in a 20-year period when these are operational. “This amount of consumption is less by 19% or 9.8 billion litres of fuel is saved in the improvement case as compared to the business as usual (BAU) case,” the report said. It added that in the total fuel savings, the share of petrol will be about 7% and the rest of diesel. The major savings will be 53% and 23% by medium and heavy commercial vehicles respectively.

It has also been estimated that in case of greenfield highways improvements, the CO2 avoidance in 20 years can be of the order of 10,167 tonnes per km whereas improvements of brownfield highways can result in about 11,936 tonnes per km of CO2 avoidance.

While greenfield highways are built on new alignments, the existing roads are widened under the brownfield category.

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