Sustainable Engineering Solutions
"The road to development begins with the development of the road."
Poorly designed, built and maintained roads are unsustainable and consequently they become an economic burden to everyone, but especially to rural communities. They also increase the costs of accessing economic and social opportunities for the rural poor. The costs of transporting all crops, goods and people on such routes is much higher than necessary; constraining development and poverty reduction efforts.
It is a sobering thought that after over 100 years of motor transport development, only about 15% of classified rural roads are constructed to all-weather standards in some regions. We need to accelerate development and application of affordable and sustainable engineering solutions to provide the effective access to the rest of the rural population.
The ideal rural road would consist of a surface that is cheap to construct, allows safe passage at all times, requires minimal maintenance and enables smooth traffic flow to reduce vehicle maintenance costs. Engineers, researchers and road developers now face the challenging task of developing alternative rural road surface solutions that minimise maintenance requirements and make optimal use of locally available resources, in an era of seemingly ever-increasing energy and materials costs.
An important consideration is who is or will be responsible for construction and maintenance of the road?; these need not be the same entity or person. However, it should be clear to all stakeholders who is responsible for each function, and those parties should be fully involved in all decisions relating to the development and maintenance of the route. For many rural routes these responsibilities are not always clear.
In order to obtain optimal results from the rural road network in developing countries, it is important to adopt an investment approach that is guided by appropriate local standards and conditions, to achieve a sustainable outcome. This will require taking into consideration all of the Road Environment Factors indicated in the following diagram.
In addition, there is need to incorporate the needs of ALL users (including users of Intermediate Means of Transport as well as pedestrians) within the appraisal process for rural roads. In this way the appraisal process becomes more inclusive and participatory. It would result in delivering road designs that take into account important issues such as the use of Intermediate Means of Transport, safety issues for all users, but especially pedestrians and overall inclusion of needs of women, children and other vulnerable users.
These have been identified as:
However, perhaps the greatest knowledge gap is that between the available knowledge and actual mainstreaming or embedment of this in standards, specifications and everyday practice of road agencies in developing and emerging nations, to achieve low cost, and sustainable engineering transport solutions.
Click here for recent paper summarising the key issues concerning the development of Sustainable Engineering Solutions for Low Volume Rural Roads
Key documentation includes:
The following gTKP web pages may also provide further knowledge on specific issues:
If you would like to comment on this knowledge, suggest a key reference or make a further contribution, please contact email@example.com.
Updated March 2010