We will undertake a massive tree plantation drive on rail land across the country before the onset of monsoon, said a senior official in the Environment Directorate of Railway Ministry.

Railways has created a separate directorate to carry out environment-related activities in a focused manner. "We are finalising the varieties of trees such as neem, pilkhan, jamun to be planted on rail land including on both sides of the tracks. The saplings will be region-specific and vary from zone to zone," said the official.

He said it would be ensured that branches of the trees do not block the tracks. Railways will be joined by Environment Ministry and state governments in the massive drive.

We will sign an MoU with the Environment Ministry to carry out the plantation exercise, he said. Besides, railways will also rope in NGOs in the country-wide exercise. There are many NGOs which are involved in social forestry and their services will be enlisted by the public transporter.

Our aim is to go ahead with the plantation at a fast pace before the monsoon so that rain will allow the saplings to grow quickly, he said.

The land where trees will be planted will remain with railways while the maintenance of trees will be a joint effort of railways, Environment Ministry and state governments. The official said the tree plantation drive will serve dual purpose. "While the plantation is an environment-friendly exercise, trees will also prevent encroachment of rail land."

The public sector behemoth has launched a string of green initiatives in the recent past including water conservation, generating solar and wind power and using LED bulbs among others.

The railways is setting up automatic coach washing plants all rail depots to minimise the use of water for cleaning trains.

In the wake of water scarcity being faced be several states, railways has already launched a drive to protect and revive all water bodies on land owned by it.

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