Jadav "Molai" Payeng, the Indian man who single-handedly planted up 1,360 acres of forest, may soon have some competition on his hands. Or allies, depending on which way you want to look at it. Huffington Post reports that a new afforestation initiative from India's Rural Development Ministry aims to plant 2 billion trees along the nation's 62,137 miles of highways. The idea, says the article, is to both combat rural poverty and youth unemployment while also improving the environment and helping to clean up India's chronic air pollution:

The country's Rural Development Ministry on Friday announced a new afforestation plan to plant 2 billion trees along the nation’s highways in an effort to tackle youth unemployment. The country’s Road Transport, Highways, Shipping and Rural Development Minister Nitin Jairam Gadkari said in a meeting in New Delhi that the new initiative would also help preserve the environment.
This plan cannot come soon enough. Not only does India have a youth unemployment rate of 10.2 percent, according to the World Health Organization, it is also home to six of the world's 10 cities with the worst air pollution. Given the deadly impact of air pollution worldwide, and the incredible power of trees to absorb emissions, this plan may have a significant impact not just on the economy and biodiversity, but on health as well. 

This isn't the only recent sign of environmental progress in India either. The country's new prime minister, Narendra Modi, has also announced a target of getting electricity to every home in India by 2019, relying largely on solar power to do so. According to The Hindu, the government is also working on plans to clean up the Ganga and Yamuna rivers. 

Related on MNN: