Resilient recovery: How can Nature-Based Solutions improve transport infrastructure resilience? Lessons from Haiti

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Resilient recovery: How can nature-based solutions improve transport infrastructure resilience? Lessons from Haiti
Haiti offers beautiful mountainous and coastal-marine eco-systems. | Photo: World Bank

From hurricanes to tropical storms, floods, droughts, and earthquakes, Haiti has experienced it all. The human and economic impacts of these hazards have been extremely severe for the country. In 2016, Hurricane Matthew affected over 2 million people, causing damages and losses equivalent to around 32% of GDP. On top of that, the global COVID-19 outbreak has only worsened existing challenges, rendering communities even more vulnerable.

There is a growing recognition that nature can help support resilient recovery. “Nature-Based Solutions” (or NBS) are innovative approaches that harness natural capital to increase the resilience of communities and ecosystems while providing environmental, social and economic benefits. This includes restoring and leveraging natural vegetation, mangrove belts, coastal reefs, and other natural resources, to mitigate and adapt to climate impacts.

It is not surprising that the UN defines, in its recent call to action, NBS as one of the six priority actions to a resilient recovery from the current health and economic crisis as “compared to traditional infrastructure, NBS deliver more jobs per dollar, higher economic returns, and are faster to implement and more sustainable in the long run.”

At the World Bank, since 2012, we have integrated NBS in around 100 projects across 60 countries, and developed a knowledge base to help mainstream NBS through various case studies, guidance notes and guidelines.

One of the latest contributions in this field is our guidance note on “Nature-Based Solutions for the Road Sector in Haiti.” Haiti ( o Ayti, “Mountainous Land” in the language of the Arawak) offers beautiful mountainous and coastal-marine eco-systems, and valuable natural resources. The goal of the note, prepared by the LAC Transport team with support of GFDRR, is to deepen the understanding of interventions that would protect Haiti’s precious natural capital while increasing resilience of transport infrastructure and communities.

The note discusses some of the key challenges and opportunities to introduce NBS in the transport sector, and includes a discussion on potential NBS for two pilot sites. Those include slope stabilization through vegetation, coastal protection with enrockment and mangrove restoring as well as efficient drainage systems. All of them are considered to be cost-efficient ways to reduce the risk of flooding, coastal erosion and landslide impacts on roads while restoring natural eco-systems.

Hybrid NBS solution for National Road #2 section in Les Zanglais, Sud Department, Haiti
The road section under consideration is highly exposed to climate impacts located 20 meters from the beach and 3 meters from the foot of the mountain. To bring climate resilience to this coastal road, the proposed NBS includes the placement of willow spilling revetment and planting vetiver as a slope stabilizer for the mountain side, and mangrove restoration to protect the coastal slope.

: How can nature-based solutions improve transport infrastructure resilience? Lessons from Haiti

We found that some critical challenges still stand in the way of widespread use of NBS, especially in sectors such as transport. This includes a poor public perception of this type of intervention versus traditional infrastructure interventions, lack of access to funding, and limited technical capacity of government and local companies. Key lessons learnt from our work on nature-based solutions in the road sector are:

  • NBS works well in rural contexts and is most effective when combined with traditional infrastructure options. Such hybrid solutions can present less upfront cost, faster implementation, better sustainability in the long term and less maintenance cost.
  • Local communities should be part of the solution to design and implement NBS in the road sector. Partnering with local communities is critical to understand local context and socio-economic benefits (e.g. arising from the choice of plant types and associated usages), avoid malpractices on the project sites, thus ensuring proper design and maintenance of NBS by empowering local communities.
  • Communicate and disseminate benefits of NBS solutions among key road sector stakeholders. Road sector professionals, government, and academia need to be properly informed on the benefits of NBS as this concept has not been part of traditional training curriculum. As an innovative solution, it requires breaking stereotypes and raising awareness.
  • Disaster Risk Management should be built into a road authority’s planning. There is a need to integrate adaptation interventions such as NBS with a focus on how to build resilience into existing and future designs for road infrastructure.
  • NBS requires coordination between various agencies and/or ministries. Road policy management that integrates NBS needs to adopt a more holistic approach and coordinate with various actors including water management sector, road agencies, environmental specialists and local populations.

If you are interested in learning more about piloting NBS in the road sector, make sure to take a look at our recent guidance note and don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team.

The blog was revised by Brenden Jongman, DRM and Nature-Based Solutions specialist at the World Bank Group.


Malaika Becoulet

Transport Specialist, World Bank

Jordy Chan

Transport and Digital Development Consultant, World Bank

Aminata Nguitone Dia

Urban mobility consultant, World Bank

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