New Delhi:

Against India witnessing 1.5 lakh deaths in 5 lakh road crashes annually, Union minister Nitin Gadkari on Friday said it is his endeavour to reduce these numbers by at least 25 per cent by the fiscal-end.

Launching the UNDP national awareness campaign on ''Prevention of Human and Animal Mortality on Highways'' via video conference on the occasion of World Environment Day, the road transport minister said steps were on to correct about 5,000 identified accident spots across the country.


Underlining the need for generating awareness and education for the masses at large towards reducing or eliminating mortality on the roads of both human beings and animals, the minister said ecology and sustainability are most important for human lives.


"India witnesses nearly five lakh road accidents every year, in which about 1.5 lakh lives are lost. It is our endeavour to bring down these figures by 20-25 per cent by the coming March 31," the minister said.


The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has identified over 5,000 black spots, and the process for their rectification including temporary and permanent measures is being carried out on urgent basis, he said.


Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) regarding procedure for rectification of black spots for taking up short-term and long-term permanent measures have already been issued, as per the ministry and till date, temporary measures on 1,739 newly identified black spots and permanent measures on 840 newly identified black spots have already been taken.


The minister informed that various road safety measures have been highlighted to be focused upon on stretches of national highways.


These steps are 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 said that his ministry is also conscious about the need to protect animal lives on the roads and stressed that ethics, economy and ecology are the three most important pillars of the country.


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 Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun for making road or any linear infrastructure and take care of wildlife accordingly.


He requested NGOs and social organisations to locate black spots for animals on the roads, and inform his ministry so that necessary corrective action may be taken.


The ministry and its organisations are spending good amounts on creating infrastructure conducive to animal use.


He cited the example of Nagpur-Jabalpur Highway, where via-ducts etc have been constructed for Rs 1,300 crore to create right-of-way for tigers.


Similar exercises are being undertaken in forest areas of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Uttarakhand (Dehradun), etc, he said.


These include conducting studies for road engineering favourable to animal movement, constructing underpasses, elevated corridors, via-ducts, cut and cover, guardwall, fencing, watch tower, solar pumps, ponds for drinking water for animals, etc, the minister said.