Rural Road Construction Strategy - Advantages and Limitations


Environmental Advantages

  • The method promotes a construction approach, which prevents large damages to the traversed landscape. Disruption of vegetation cover along the road is avoided and excavated material is transformed into construction material. The use of heavy building equipment and explosives is minimised so that destabilising disturbances of the slopes are reduced.
  • Unavoidable disruptions are directly rehabilitated through bio-engineering techniques, which reduce the risk of future road destruction by erosion and landslides.
  • Phased construction over a period of three years supports self-compaction of the road and reduces damages caused by erosion and landslides.

Economic and Technical Advantages

  • A road project may employ large numbers of skilled and unskilled labourers, who earn food and/or cash to improve their food security and livelihoods.
  • The strategy works directly through CBOs (e.g. User Committees) instead of outside contractors. Therefore, project resources directly reach the grass roots level where they contribute to improving the local economy.
  • Re-utilisation of excavated material and maximum use of local construction materials (stones, gravel, etc.) reduce costs.
  • Integration of indigenous knowledge in alignment planning and construction, and on-the-job training of road builders enable local maintenance of roads in the future.
  • Avoiding heavy equipment helps to promote locally produced tools (e.g. chisel, hammer) which can be produced and repaired by local blacksmiths, who get opportunities to earn extra income.
  • Skills acquired by local workers during road construction (e.g. bioengineering, masonry) can be used for own beneficial projects (e.g. proper maintenance of terraces, house construction).

Social Advantages

  • The self-targeting strategy followed for the selection of workers guarantees that poor people benefit from their participation in construction work.
  • Involving people who are living near the construction site helps to develop a feeling of ownership and responsibility for the roads.
  • CBOs established during the project operate through democratic processes and norms. This indirectly helps to establish community-level institutions which can also address social issues in a democratic manner.
  • Members of CBOs gain the opportunity to attend various training/orientation courses, which broaden their knowledge base and improve their decision-making and self-help capabilities.
  • Members of poor households and disadvantaged groups get the chance to take leadership positions in worker groups. This helps develop them as leaders in their respective communities.


Technical Limitations

  • “Green roads” are simple earthen roads which require frequent maintenance. This is more costly shortly after the completion of the road, than in the course of regular operation.
  • To avoid major rainfall-related damages the fair-weather roads should be closed for vehicle movement during periods of intense rainfall (e.g. monsoon).
  • “Green roads” are designed for being used by light vehicles like jeeps and minibuses only. Plying them with heavy trucks and buses must be prevented.
  • Due to utilisation of light and non-mechanical equipment, the progress of the road building is comparatively slow.
  • Especially in hilly and mountainous terrain, “mass balancing” as defined by the “Green Road Approach” is not always possible.


Socio-Economic Limitations

  • The project can offer only limited and short-term employment. In view of a generally high demand for unskilled and long-term labour opportunities, the effect of this approach is rather limited in a larger poverty alleviation context.
  • It is challenging to involve particularly vulnerable groups (e.g. single parents with small children, orphans, old citizens, and differently-abled people) in road construction activities.


Budgetary Limitations


  • Funds provided by the project and generated by target groups are usually not sufficient for large numbers of accidents (if any) during the construction phase. They will not be big enough to secure future livelihoods of a seriously injured victim’s family.
  • The funds are also insufficient in cases of large-scale damage to the road. Therefore, it is crucial to select an alignment which avoids areas prone to landslide and erosion and to define clear responsibilities with the concerned government agency.
  • Constructing a rural road in line with the “Green Road Approach” may require higher initial investment than following conventional construction techniques. Experiences from the Himalayas have shown that about 12,000 person days (1 PD = 8 working hours) are required per kilometre. These higher initial investments are compensated by comparatively low maintenance costs of 200-300 PD per kilometre a year.

Natural Hazards and Risks

In fragile mountain environments road construction almost inevitably
increase landslide hazard and risk (see Figure 1):

  • Roads destabilise mountain slopes and increase the probability of landslides along their corridor.
  • Roads are magnets for settlement development. If they cross hazard-prone areas, construction of houses and shops along the road increases exposure of people and their assets towards natural hazards, which results in higher risk.

Therefore, it is of utmost importance to minimise destabilising effects of roads as far as possible and prevent haphazardous settlement development in hazard zones.

Figure 1: Impact of road construction on landslide risk