Habitat Observatory

    Green Roads: A Powerful Asian Trend

In Nepal, the exciting Green Road Approach unites eco-friendly road construction with socio-economic enabling of local communities, while India now integrates the use of plastic waste in road paving and builds awareness of green infrastructure techniques.

The Green Roads Concept was created for Nepal by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and put into action by the District Roads Support Project (DRSP), which received a second-place “Innovation Award for Road Transport in Developing Countries” from the International Roads Federation in recognition of its success in the environmentally and economically sustainable construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of Nepal’s rural roads.

Transport infrastructure gives Nepal hope for the future: improved access to roads in areas served by the DRSP has led to a 20% increase in school attendance by local children.

Sustainable road construction methods prohibit blasting and reduce hill cutting. Bioengineering ensures the careful selection of plants to stabilise topsoil on roadside slopes, preventing landslides and providing fruit, livestock fodder and construction materials for local inhabitants. Construction is a source of employment, with 40% of the workforce comprising women. According to the SDC, roughly 1.5 million person-work-days were created during the past four years of the project’s operation. The roads themselves permit much-needed access to markets where local wares can be sold, hospitals and schools; roadside business opportunities also make a significant contribution to the local economy.

Similar efforts to make infrastructure development sustainable are taking place in India where the use of plastic waste is being integrated into road paving and awareness of green infrastructure techniques is being built. In the state of Himachal Pradesh, the government is making strides in green road paving by using plastic waste to conserve bitumen, make road surfaces more durable and prevent rainwater damage and pothole formation. Himachal’s Public Works Department (PWD) Minister Gulab Singh states:

"The government has so far collected 104 tonnes of plastic this year. Of this, 40 tonnes have been used in construction of roads." Back in 2009, Himachal Pradesh imposed a ban on all non-biodegradable polythene bags, and launched a major awareness campaign called Remove Polythene, Save the Environment.  Now, green roads are helping the state with its plastics pollution problem.  According to Mr. Singh, "All PWD divisions are using plastic for roads. This year the PWD will build 150 km of roads surfaced with plastic waste. Last year 42 km of roads were built using this material."

Green roads trend are catching on in other Indian states. In September 2011, the Haryana Public Works Department (Building and Roads) launched a pilot project using shredded plastic bags to construct a stretch of road. Each kilometre-long stretch of pavement uses up two tonnes of non-biodegradable plastic material. India’s Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has advised project leaders to reuse plastic waste in road building, and offered detailed operational guidelines for the undertaking.

South Asian countries have begun an encouraging movement toward green and socially responsible infrastructure development. India and Nepal lead the way with environment and people-friendly road building.

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    Community Centre Enables Change the Green Way

The Geerjgarh Gyan Kendra, a community-managed green building centre funded by READ Global has begun operating in Rajasthan in the spring of 2011. The Centre’s structure represents a confluence of decisions based on economic, social and environmental sustainability, resulting in a holistically-designed setting representing change for progress. The most striking achievement of this project is the Kendra’s architectural makeup: cost-effective and low-energy building materials were used to construct climatically responsive, day-lit, thermally comfortable interior spaces.

The Geerjgarh Gyan Kendra sets a much-needed example of good practices in green construction, and houses a library, reading area, and vocational training hall, among other facilities necessary for developing social capital in rural areas. The Centre is composed of   materials that are obtained locally – a way of reducing transport-related pollution. The use of steel is kept to a minimum, and stone waste is used for external paving, so as to decrease reliance on new materials. A renewable energy solar hybrid system supplies the building with power, and an open central court diffuses light throughout the building, while sanitation needs are taken care of through an on-site, eco-friendly unit.

The Centre has been created as a model of economic viability in the rural context, in addition to being an architectural response to climate change and resource scarcity. The inspiration behind the Centre is believed to be the green building of Development Alternatives Headquarters in New Delhi, and the appropriate traditional eco-technologies of Rajasthan were adapted to the contemporary context, as well as designed and implemented by TARA Nirman Kendra, a building centre of the DA Group. Made in such a way as to demonstrate the range of possibilities for affordable, community-owned building, the Centre erected on community-donated land donated has cost a total of Rs. 21 lakh for civil and interior works and services. The maintenance and operational costs are also quite low. Perhaps most importantly, the Community Centre is being used as a hub for income generation activities, and as a capacity building and training centre. Its library and resource centre is being used to impart valuable knowledge to enable the inhabitants of the rural area to take part in the region’s economic development, built on the foundation of economic, social and environmental responsibility.

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