9 April 2019

Eco-Safe Roads – resources to guide construction

Posted by Dave Petley

Eco-Safe Roads – resources to guide construction

Following my recent post on the need for properly engineered roads in high mountain areas, such as Nepal, Karen Sudmeier contacted me to highlight the work that she and her colleagues have undertaken on eco-safe roads.  This work is featured in a piece on the IUCN website, featuring the use of bioengineering for improving slope stability along mountain roads.  Bioengineering is not new, and can be highly effective, but its use remains disappointingly patchy.

The most useful element of this work is a manual that they have produced entitled “Community-based bio-engineering for eco-safe roadsides in Nepal”, which aims to provide “guidance to communities and local government agencies on the occurrence, assessment and mitigation of road construction-induced landslides and erosion.”  The guide can be downloaded as a PDF.

This is a genuinely fantastic document, free of technical jargon, that both identifies the issues and offers really positive guidance on how to manage them.  The first part of the document describes, with diagrams, the types of hazards that might be encountered.  For example, this is the section that explains the hazards associated with earthflows:-


The hazards associated with earthflows, the guidelines for eco-safe roads. Reference:- Devkota et al. (2014).


The guidelines then provide a very helpful classification tool for measures to be considered:-

eco-safe roads

Recommended approaches for the design of eco-safe roads. Reference: Devkota et al. (2014).


Each of the techniques are then described in detail, including guidance on how to do it, the requirements, the advantages, the functions and the disadvantages / limitations.

I think this is a very helpful, very pragmatic set of guidelines that, if implemented, could make a huge difference.  The guidelines can also be adapted easily for other locations / territories, in particular through the use of local plant species. They deserve wider recognition.


Devkota, S., Sudmeier-Rieux, K., Penna, I., Eberle, S., Jaboyedoff, M., Adhikari, A. and R. Khanal (2014) Community-based bio-engineering for eco-safe roadsides in Nepal. Lausanne : University of Lausanne, International Union for Conservation of Nature, Nepal and Department of Soil Conservation and Watershed Management, Government of Nepal.