Published on Sustainable Cities

Road geohazard risk management: new tools and e-learning

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Road infrastructure is vulnerable to geohazards. Imagine driving on a single-lane rural road in the Himalayas, with a steep hill to your left and a steep cliff to your right side. It’s raining and the road is covered with mud from the hillside. A large truck is passing by, leaving little space to maneuver. If a landslide occurs, this road will be blocked for a long time because there is no alternate way to get there and heavy equipment has to be brought from a distance to remove debris and clear the road.

Geohazards, or geological hazards, are often defined as “events caused by geological, geomorphological, and climatic conditions or processes that represent serious threats to human lives, property, and the natural and built environment.” Falls, collapses, landslides, flows, and erosions are all categorized as geohazards (Figure 1). In addition, less probable but high impact geohazards include glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF) or avalanches. Geohazards result in the loss of human lives, extensive physical damage to buildings and critical infrastructure, and economic impact due to disruptions to transport, communication, water supply, and energy services. Intensive rainfall due to climate change, road expansions or extensions in challenging terrains pose significant geohazard risk in many countries. Yet, roads need to be further built or expanded to provide accessibility to remote communities or ensure connectivity to cities and towns.

Figure 1: Road Geohazard Types
Figure 1: Road Geohazard Types. Source: ©World Bank. Further permission required for reuse.

To proactively manage the geohazard risks on roads, road users, and the people living near and affected by roads, the Road Geohazard Risk Management Handbook was launched with the support of the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), World Bank Tokyo Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Hub, and the government of Japan. The handbook includes  Japan, Serbia and Brazil Case Studies and Road Geohazard Risk Management Appendix A (Terms of Reference) and Appendix B (Operations Manual) which provides standard templates for terms of reference that can be adapted for technical assistance projects for road geohazard risk management, as well as an operations manual for practitioners involved in road geohazard risk management.

By implementing the templates for institutional capacity review and target setting in Appendix A,  the government of Sierra Leone assessed and evaluated the current capability of various key institutional actors in its roads and transport sector, to formulate and implement policies and plans in road geohazard management. The findings of the assessment were summarized in the Road Geohazard Risk Management Sierra Leone Study to offer a set of recommendations to improve the effectiveness of their policies, plans and initiatives in mitigating road geohazards.


The Road Geohazard Risk Management E-learning is now available at the World Bank Open Learning Campus (OLC) to help users learn about road geohazard risk management in a systematic and comprehensive manner through the following two modules.


Module 1: Road Geohazard Risk Management E-Learning

Part 1: Framework for Road Geohazard Risk Management introduces some basic concepts and provides context to the overall handbook.

Part 2: Institutional Capacity and Coordination covers the institutional arrangements that are necessary for the successful implementation of geohazard risk management.

Part 3: Systems Planning covers the systems planning aspects, pertaining to the identification, assessment, and evaluation of risks, along with raising awareness of disasters.

Part 4: Engineering and Design deals with engineered solutions to address geohazard risks, giving examples of different solutions to particular risk types.

Part 5: Operations and Maintenance focuses on both engineered solutions and nonengineered solutions available to mitigate the impacts of geohazard risks through O&M.

Part 6: Contingency Planning addresses contingency programming issues, such as post-disaster response and recovery and the important issue of funding arrangements and emergency preparedness.

In addition, this module contains a reference list and additional online resources.

Module 2: Road Geohazard Risk Management Case Studies

Textbook theories and learnings need to be practiced through real-world application. This module presents a collection of studies, training, and workshops that were conducted to address geohazard risks in South Asia, a region that has tremendous landslide risk and other geohazard challenges especially in the Hindu Kush Himalayan Mountains. The collection of case studies comes from activities conducted under GFDRR’s Building Resilience to Landslide and Geohazard Risk in the South Asia Region Program, a regional technical assistance program funded by the European Union.  


Tackling geohazard risks is not easy, and we hope these new tools and case studies will help practitioners gain knowledge and ideas on how to rise up to the challenge in their respective regions and countries.


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Akiko Toya

Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Specialist

Masatsugu Takamatsu

Disaster Risk Management Specialist

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