Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari on Thursday said the government is working on a policy to utilise urban solid waste for constructing highways, a move that can help unlock a whopping 24,700 acres of prime land holdings across India.

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has already utilised urban solid waste in constructing Delhi’s Urban Extension Road-II (UER II), DND-Sohna Spur of Delhi Mumbai Expressway and Ahmedabad to Dholera Expressway.

“A policy is being finalised for utilising urban solid waste in constructing national highways ,” Gadkari said at a press conference.

Urban waste

The disposal of solid waste generated on a daily basis is a major environmental challenge being faced in urban areas across India. Creating wealth from waste is possible through technology and visionary leadership, the Minister added.

For instance, Delhi has around 220 lakh tonnes of accumulated waste, while Mumbai has 260 lakh tonnes.

The mechanism used could be to direct civic agencies to carry out segregation of solid waste at landfill sites. MoRTH will engage with local municipal bodies and work out a feasible model, which will offer incentives for establishing such facilities.

The Ministry would also conduct workshops to train and skill stakeholders. Besides, the highway contracts will enable a clause that will promote use of municipal waste in embankment construction.

Alternative fuels

Another notable step by MoRTH is to promote the use of alternative fuels in construction equipment and machinery.

At present, all the construction equipment run on fossil fuels, and consume around 400 crore litres of diesel annually. In a ₹1,000-crore road project, around ₹100 crore worth of diesel is consumed.

The Ministry can offer incentives such as interest subvention schemes, which can be worked out so that concessionaires and contractors can invest in construction equipment running on alternative fuels.

Emphasising the importance of alternative bio fuels in the country’s clean energy transition, Gadkari said the objective is to make an ethanol economy of ₹2 lakh crore.

Flex fuel engines will operate on 100 per cent ethanol and the savings would surpass ₹1 lakh crore. In August, Toyota Kirloskar Motor unveiled the world’s first prototype of BS-6 Stage-II, an electrified flex fuel vehicle.

An electrified flex fuel vehicle has both a flex fuel engine and an electric powertrain, which offers the ability to provide dual benefits of higher ethanol use and much higher fuel efficiency as is in case of a strong hybrid electric vehicle (SHEV), which can provide 30-50 per cent higher fuel efficiency as it can run 40-60 per cent in EV mode with engine shut off.

The Minister said that by 2025, there will be a mandate to use 1 per cent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) with prospective plans to escalate it to 5 per cent blending. Gadkari is also pushing the genset industry to operate only on ethanol- fired generators in the future.