Nepal has rugged topography, wide altitudinal variation and diverse climatic conditions across the country. So road construction and maintenance in the hilly areas have become very challenging jobs It has been established through many road projects in Nepal that the cost of road maintenance could be reduced if bio-engineering as an environmental technique/management is applied on slopes and gullies. Bio-engineering is an age old technique used by farmers in their farmland and forests. It is sustainable and harmonious with surroundings, cost effective approach along with minor civil engineering structures and matter of management.
Simple technologies, use of local resources, participatory approach from planning to implementation, proper technical supports, and environment consideration are the important principles of Green Road Concept. In the recent days, Rural Access Program named a similar approach called RAP approach in the construction of rural roads in hill districts.
Generally, the Green Road Concept is for rural roads where the traffic volume is low and design standards are relatively low. The green road project considers environment in each phase. Initial Environment Examination and Environment Impact Assessment is carried out in this project to assess its viability in the planning, design and implementation phase. This Approach is a sustainable way of constructing the rural roads in Nepal. It considers both environment and rural poverty issues in the country with the promotion of the use of local resources, equipments and local people participation in each stage of the project. Out of the total cost, 65% of the cost goes to the local people. Along with developing the rural road infrastructure, the approach encourages the local people for self help promotion.
There exists a conflict between environmental management and the basic human needs. To meet such needs, the global effort was towards the enhancement of economic and industrial development. Environmental consciousness was started in the developed nations viewing environment and development as two faces of the same coin. The result was the establishment of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) after the World Conference on Human Environment in Stockholm (1972) in order to maintain harmony between the environment and development. Since environment and development are inseparable components, every developmental activity should take into consideration a proper protection of the environment.
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is essentially a preventive process by which costly and irreversible mistakes could easily be avoided during the project development and implementation. It serves as an important tool on environmental planning through identification, prediction and evaluation of the possible impacts of development project. International aid giving agencies are also giving stress to carry out EIA of development projects before their implementation. Keeping in mind the urgent need of EIA as a basic tool for development planning, Government of Nepal (GON) has given strong emphasis on its application in the development plans. This was facilitated with the establishment of Environmental Units in the concerned ministries and departments.
Roads guide the overall socio–economic development of Nepal. The overall objective of road development is to bring about economic development but the potential environmental impacts are manifest in the physical, biological, social, cultural and sometimes archaeological spheres. Road construction incurs various environmental and social impacts including both beneficial as well as adverse ones. The environmental and social aspects of road planning and development have been given serious priority by both the government as well as the donor agencies.
The most commonly used definition of sustainable development is that given by the World Commission of Environment and Development (WCED) in their report popularly known as Our Common Future. Growing environment problem, especially land degradation, natural resources depletion and environmental health problems are appearing as the major threat to economic development. The development endeavors to be shifted towards the sustainable economic growth with the proper management in natural resources and improvement in environmental quality.
The majority of the people in developing country live below the poverty line and the growing natural resources and environmental degradation will seriously affect their livelihood. In this context, the sustainable development in operation terms can be defined as "development which will enable the country at least to fulfill basic needs without further curtailing the level of oval consumption and further depletion and degradation of natural resources and environment".
There are relevant sectoral policies, acts, rules, guidelines prepared by the department of roads. Environmental Assessment in the Road Sector of Nepal is a policy document to explain basically the DOR Engineers on what environmental assessment procedures involve and to propose a straight forward set of procedures which make it workable and useful. The document lists Screening, Initial Environment Examination, Scoping, Environmental Impact Assessment and Monitoring as the five main components of environmental assessment activities.
Environmental management guideline is required to implement environmental mitigation measures in surveying, design, tender document preparation, contract document preparation, construction/maintenance/rehabilitation and operation of road projects. This guideline should consist of environmental mitigation measures to be incorporated into road projects, procedure for public participation and socio-economic considerations. It also needs to advise on socio-economic impacts and strategies for reducing and avoiding the potential negative impacts and for maximizing the beneficial impacts to local residents.
Thus, it can be implied that Environmental Management is a must for sustainable development of road network in Nepal. It should be given due consideration from all the concerned including the government through the proper implementation of the current Interim Plan.