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Improving rural roads in Nepal


Forest Service hydrologist Mark Weinhold leads a field practicum on proper drainage structures at a culvert along a relatively well-built rural road in Karre Khola, Surkhet District. Forest Service photo.

NEPAL — The International Programs office, with funding from and in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development, works in Nepal with the international development organization Pact on sustainable rural road construction

Forest Service experts Erica Borum, civil engineer on the White River National Forest, Mark Weinhold, hydrologist on the White River National Forest, and Gordon Keller, retired, helped deliver two trainings this year to Nepali engineers on low-volume road engineering best practices. The key concepts explored during the trainings revolved around building roads in consideration of watershed health and aquatic habitat. The curriculum was adapted from the USAID and Forest Service publication Low-Volume Roads Engineering: Best Management Practices Field Guide. The trainings have included both classroom and field demonstrations, with a strong focus on practical experience. In the field sites participants viewed good and bad examples of roads, bridges, fords, and culverts; and examples of overly steep road grades, drainage problems, instability problems, and gravel extraction from rivers.

Roads play a key role in economic development in Nepal by connecting rural communities with markets and services in more urbanized areas. However, improperly constructed roads can have negative environmental impacts, especially given the country’s steep and mountainous terrain, such as soil erosion, deforestation, and a degradation of water quality and aquatic biodiversity. Poorly built roads impact both communities and river systems throughout Nepal. These trainings contribute to sustainable economic development while simultaneously protecting Nepal's abundant flora and fauna.