Roads are being constructed in rural Nepal at a rapid pace. Due to a number of factors many of these roads are poorly built, often without any oversight or planning provided by an engineer; this causes a multitude of problems including roads that are not safe to travel in the rainy season, and damages to property and agricultural lands due to risk of landslide and increased erosion. IUCN's EPIC project in Nepal is intended to showcase an attainable option for local communities to construct and repair roads in such a way to improve their reliability and safety, while also decreasing erosion and the potential for road-related landslides. The project consists of three intervention sites, which are each located on small sections of rural mountain roads in the Phewa watershed. These sites consist of a combination of civil engineering practices, such as the construction of drainage ditches, and bioengineering practices, such as the planting of specialized plants above and below roadways intended to hold the fragile soil in place. Each project site measures less that 300 m in length, and is very newly constructed. The most recent site was completed approximately six months ago, and the researchers associated with this project are still determining which are the best plants to use for the bioengineering aspect of the interventions; more results will be available following the monsoon season of the current year. It is important to note that these three sites are intended only to provide a demonstration to show local communities and government officials the benefits that can be gained through this type of road construction.
Our goal was to determine what socioeconomic impacts could be measured in relation to engineered roads. Because the intervention sites are both new and very small it was not possible to measure the impact created by these sites in particular. Instead our focus was to identify potential benefits and costs that could be associated with the expansion of eco-engineered roads, and to project the relative magnitude of these benefits and costs in comparison to other types of roads. We collected data through focus group interviews in the field at intervention sites, in communities without interventions, and in communities without a road in order to provide a comparison to the eco-engineered roads. We then created an analytical framework in which we have included all benefits and costs that we were able to identify that could be associated to the roads, along with strategies to measure these impacts. We also provide recommendations for how the practice of constructing eco-engineered roads might be expanded in Nepal.