Walking the Talk: Promoting an Innovative Approach for Green and Climate-Resilient Transport Infrastructure in Nepal
This page in:
“We always talk about sustainable development, but we need to show how it should actually be done.”
This inspiring statement made a year ago by Mr. Dhananjaya Paudyal, Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Forests and Environment of Nepal was the stepping stone for what would become a strong collaboration between the government and the World Bank to move beyond the status quo during the preparation of a transport and trade connectivity project.
Impact of climate change on road infrastructure performance
NPR 3–6 billion (US$25–50 million) annually, which becomes much higher when adding indirect socio-economic costs linked to long-term disruption. Building climate resilience of the most critical road links including the East-West Highway is thus vital and must be integrated in the road network development strategy.. Climate-related damages to the road network, which carries 90% of the passenger and goods movement in the country, have a significant impact on communities and the country’s economic growth – leading to disruption of access to jobs and basic services as well as supply chains for agriculture and manufacturing for weeks at a time. The cost of repairing damages caused by climatic incidents – such as major flooding and landslides – to the strategic road network in Nepal is estimated at
Building climate resilience of the most critical road links including the East-West Highway is vital and must be integrated in the road network development strategy.
Impact of road infrastructure development on Nepal’s ecosystems and climate
On the other hand, a 2022 study forecasts that 46 Bengal tigers could be killed on the roads near Chitwan National Park, bringing the adult population from 133 to 81 in 20 years due to increased traffic volumes and roads expansion.. In the vicinity of the roadway, related damage includes disrupted watersheds and river systems, deforestation... but also road kills. Road kills are a major concern:
What’s the resulting impact on climate? Ultimately, it’s important to stress that such damage to the environment would in turn contribute to climate change and increase the need for climate adaptation measures. It’s a vicious circle. Healthy watersheds provide many climate-related benefits, including water storage, water filtration, flood control, erosion/sedimentation control, that are negated when watersheds are disrupted by road expansion works. Similarly, Nepal’s forests (representing 45% of the country’s total area) play an important role in the global carbon cycle acting as a carbon sink absorbing carbon emissions from the atmosphere, but are affected by increasing deforestation along road corridors.
How to balance transport and ecosystems development needs?
Despite the above data, when thinking of transport infrastructure development, building climate resilience while protecting ecosystems are not necessarily top-of-mind. Such negative impacts are most times overlooked, as when upgrading roads the focus is typically on the roadway itself.
As a team, we wanted to promote a more integrated and sustainable approach to planning and developing the East-West Highway in Nepal that would consider the broader inter-connected landscape including surrounding forest areas, watersheds, and other ecological or anthropogenic factors. Integrated land-use planning and building roads that support climate resilience and ecosystems management are indeed becoming more and more important in meeting global challenges. Looking at infrastructure as an isolated component is no longer acceptable as it is part of a larger system.
Integrated land-use planning and building roads that support climate resilience and ecosystems management are indeed becoming more and more important in meeting global challenges.
Thinking outside-of-the-box in the current country context was a must and the answer came in the form of adopting an Integrated Landscape Approach!
Integrated Landscape Approach applied to the East-West Highway
into our planning. In collaboration with the Nepal government, and with support from the fantastic World Bank Knowledge, Information & Data Services (KIDS) team, we identified four landscape-related risk groups. The risk groups are climate/disaster/hydrology, forest, wildlife, and social/human related risks. We then built the below multi-risk map to map out how each risk group impacts transport and ecosystems sustainability, by characterizing how the landscape affected the highway, and how the highway affected the landscape. As a result, we identified the most pressing needs within different segments of the highway.
This multi-risk impact assessment, replicable in other contexts, allowed us to raise awareness among the central and local governments and identify key green and climate-resilient measures to be adopted (both within the roadway and in the landscape area) by the Government of Nepal as part of a Green Resilient Highway Corridor Concept and Strategy:
- Slope stabilization through bioengineering and nature-based solutions, bridge scour protection, restoration of watersheds for reduced erosion, enhancing drainage, riverbank protection and flood control, water diversion facilities, along segments identified as more vulnerable to floods and landslides.
- Large scale afforestation strategy, wildfire management system, design and construction of wildlife crossing points, along road segments identified as exacerbating wildlife- or forest-related risks near national parks and conservation areas.
- Installation of natural noise barriers, lightning, displacement of religious trees, rainwater collection ponds, in areas with high social/human related risks including water supply disruption affecting agriculture.
New Green Resilient Highway Corridor Concept became one of the fundamental components of the ACCESS project approved by the Board on June 28, 2022 and signed on September 18, 2022
This new Green Resilient Highway Corridor Concept became one of the fundamental components of the ACCESS project approved by the Board on June 28, 2022 and signed on September 18, 2022. Within the Green, Resilient, and Inclusive Development (GRID) framework adopted in 2021 and in the context of federalism in Nepal, promoting this concept will yield several benefits:
- Boosting climate resilience of transport infrastructure and ecosystems.
- Shifting from reactive mitigation of climate and environmental impacts to upstream comprehensive planning of a transport network.
- Enhancing the livelihoods of the most vulnerable groups, by supporting sustainable economic growth in the long-term.
Most importantly,! It will further guide the World Bank-Nepal partnership moving forward to 'walk the talk' when it comes to climate adaptation. . Re-thinking transport infrastructure development provides important opportunities in that regard.
What actions are you taking? How would you tackle these challenges in your country? In the context of the Annual Meetings, share with us projects which would benefit from using a similar approach?
Join the Conversation