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Official Green Roads for Water Guidelines Launched Ahead of COP-26

October 28, 2021

New Guidelines and COP26

The images of floods, water shortages and forest fires are fresh in our minds. Climate change is a reality that we can no longer ignore or wish away. There is an urgent need for game changers, that create climate resilience and mitigation at massive scale. The eyes here are very much on the infrastructure sector. The infrastructure sector is the main contributor to greenhouse gas emissions (30-40%), but at the same time because of its very size (annual investments in roads already being USD 1-2 Bn), the sector is also an important part of the solution in the shape of green infrastructure.

The coming COP-26 in Glasgow (31 October – 12 November) will focus on updating climate commitments and initiating much more climate action. It is here that Green Roads for Water come in: roads designed or modified not only to serve transport needs but to also contribute to better water management, regreening and to climate resilience. Conventional roads amplify climate damage: roads typically cause 15 to 40% of all landscape degradation and cause USD 260 M of flood damage in Europe alone. Green roads for water instead improve the capacity to manage and harness water and they suffer far less from water-related damage.

About the new Guidelines

We are very proud to announce that the “Green Roads for Water: Guidelines for Road Infrastructure in Support of Water Management and Climate Resilience” have been officially issued by the World Bank as a flagship publication! These guidelines discuss the use of roads for beneficial water management and climate resilience.
You can access and download for free the full version of the new guidelines through this link.

The Green Roads for Water guidelines advocate for a change in the paradigm in the way roads projects are planned and implemented. The guidelines advocate for a more integrated design process with local communities and social, environmental, water, and agriculture sectors to turn around the negative impacts of roads on the surrounding landscape, and simultaneously maximize the beneficial use of roads for water management and climate resilience that can work to the advantage of local communities along the roads.

The Green Roads for Water guidelines are drawn from field experience and work in professional communities in road development, water management, climate resilience, disaster risk reduction, and environmental, social, and agricultural development. They combine experiences from Bangladesh, Bolivia, China, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, Nepal, Portugal, Sudan, Tajikistan, Uganda, the Republic of Yemen, and Zambia. All these countries have taken initial steps to promote beneficial road-water management.

The audience for these guidelines is diverse. They target experts in multiple disciplines who work in the planning and implementation of road projects or who assess the impact of and mitigation measures for road projects, such as civil engineers, planners, and environmental and social specialists. This document is also intended for other communities of practice, such as those who work in flood prevention, landscape restoration, agricultural development, climate resilience, disaster risk reduction, and the environment in general. Another key audience comprises community representatives and nongovernmental organizations in rural areas.

These guidelines are organised into four sections:

  • The first section begins with an introductory overview of the general approach of roads for water in chapter 1.
  • The second section describes the uses and geographies for roads for water. It starts with a discussion of the key concepts in watershed management (chapter 2), and a discussion of how roads can be used to develop safe domestic water resources in rural areas (chapter 3). Chapters 4 through 6 provide details on various geographies: water-short semiarid areas (chapter 4), low-lying flood-prone areas (chapter 5), and middle- and high-altitude zones (chapter 6). Each area has its own opportunities, sets of appropriate measures, and dos and don’ts.
  • The third section (chapters 7 through 13) concentrates on some of the most important techniques and provides practical details on how to implement them. The following interventions are discussed: the conversion of borrow pits for use as water storage, the use of road drifts, the development of local water storage, harvesting water from road drainage, and promoting ground-water recharge with unpaved roads and roadside tree planting.
  • The fourth section (chapters 14 through 16) discusses how to make Green Roads for Water and Climate Resilience work. Chapter 14 describes the governance arrangements that are conducive to integrating road development, climate resilience, and water management. Chapter 15 describes how to engage roadside communities in the development of effective roads for water programs that support community needs and promote livelihood opportunities. Finally, chapter 16 recaps the guidelines with a summary of some of the costs and benefits of roads for water, describes the roads for water program in Ethiopia and provides a preview of other roads for water programs.


Below you can read reviews from various readers:

“For centuries, transport planners and builders have attempted to improve the “working relationship” between roads and water. Within the road community, water was perceived as an enemy, responsible for damage through erosion, waterlogging, flooding and storms. The idea underpinning the “Green Roads for Water” movement is to make roads instruments of beneficial water management and resilience. An astonishing 20 percent of the global land surface lies within one kilometer of a road. These are also the areas where most people live, and where economic and agricultural activities are concentrated. There is therefore a clear case to be made that road development and water security can be co-optimized.
As a long-standing supporter of “Green Roads for Water”, IRF welcomes the publication of this important knowledge resource, resulting from successful pilot projects and an original coalition of road engineers, hydrologists and agroforestry specialists.”

C. Patrick Sankey, President & CEO, International Road Federation (IRF), New Alexandria, Virginia, United States

“It is a new era for the road and water sector having a common guideline since they were seen as enemies of one another. The economic, environmental and social importance of this guideline is too big especially for developing countries like Ethiopia since road infrastructure is at the infant stage. Happy to see the publishment!”

Getachew Engdayehu, Director for the Natural Resources Directorate at the Amhara Bureau for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Ethiopia

“Publication of “Green Roads for Water: Guidelines for Road Infrastructure in Support of Water Management and Climate Resilience” could be a pioneering document for local roadside water resources problems to manage & harvest by applying civil with bioengineering tools and technics. It is in the form of easy to practice by choosing their conditions with solutions by local governments.”

Maheswor Ghimire, National Project Director, RVWRMP Senior Divisional Engineer Department of Local Infrastructure(DOLI), Kathmandu, Nepal

“Hearty congratulations on the launch of the “Green Roads for Water” book recently. It’s very fascinating to learn the developments of this activity over the last 7 to 8 years.

I am steering the process of a new State Water Policy here in Karnataka and want to include the ‘Roads for Water Harvesting’ concept into the policy. I was reading some stuff on your website to present the same to the PWD engineers who are the ones who are handling the roads here.”

Dr. P.S.Rao, Director (Technical), Advanced Centre for Integrated Water Resources Management (ACIWRM), Government of Karnataka, Bangalore, Karnataka, India

“I find this document very interesting and useful for road engineers. It has described several aspects of water management related problems and possible solutions for resilient road structures. At the same time, it has described the road hydrology in high Himalayas, subtropical, tropical areas, flood plains, and coastal areas. I find this document useful to those who are practicing in the field of resilient road works keeping the water bodies in harmony with the road.”

Rohit Kumar Bisural, Superintending Engineer, Department of Roads, Government of Nepal

“The Green roads for water program has been an effective concept of building roads that have become great instruments for socio-economic uplifting, environmental rehabilitation and climate resilience in Makueni County, Eastern Kenya. 80% of the damage to unpaved roads in the county has been caused by unmanaged road runoff which has had serious financial implications on periodic and routine roads maintenance and rehabilitation. This has been minimized by implementing the Green roads for water – by systematically directing road runoff to farms(cut-off drains), surface storage fed from road culverts(borrow pits), road crossings used as sand dams(non-vented drifts), gully rehabilitation(gabions) and roadside tree planting. Through a well-coordinated inter-departmental collaboration, county staff trainings by MetaMeta Kenya and massive community sensitization, the Government of Makueni County has achieved tremendous progress on the implementation of the Green roads for water program on most of the unpaved roads across the county. The published green roads for water guidelines for road infrastructure in support of water management and climate resilience will provide practical guidelines in making roads work for water and landscape management and climate resilience.”

Michael Paul Maluki, Roads Inspector, County Green Roads for Water Champion, Department of Roads, Transport, Energy & Public Works, Government of Makueni County, Eastern Kenya.

“Green Roads for Water is a simple, yet transformational approach to effectively manage road infrastructure within a changing climate. GRP is thrilled to have supported this stellar example of a resilient solution and we encourage its robust implementation to improve water security, support livelihoods and improve infrastructure around the globe.”

Nathanial Matthews, CEO, Global Resilience Partnership, Stockholm, Sweden

“Congratulations on pulling these guidelines together. I’m pleased that the Z Zurich Foundation was able to support Meta Meta through the GRP’s Water Window program in Bangladesh and that this work forms the basis of some of these guidelines. For professionals operating in the field of integrating flood risk management, considering multiple uses and adaptability of critical infrastructure such as roads is a valuable component of their work. It is also a core principle of the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance’s approach, being one of the 4R resilience properties of a system. Find out more about that work at www.floodresilience.net/Zurich-flood-resilience-alliance.”

David Nash, Climate Change & Partnerships Senior Manager, Z Zurich Foundation, Zurich, Switzerland

Travelling along the rugged roads across Somaliland, I have always felt, that something is missing in the way we approach water retention and use in this country that loses most of its precious precipitation to the Gulf of Aden. When I discovered the work of MetaMeta (alternatively: Guidelines for Road Infrastructure in Support of Water Management and Climate Resilience) and deepened the issue in the exchange that followed, it became obvious that we have to start our own national GR4W programme and policy development. We are glad that MetMeta will soon visit us with a delegation of experts to explore solutions out in the field, discuss the way forward with the Somaliland Government, the UN and the international and national NGO community. We are certain that Somaliland is entering a new era with an expanded way of looking at roads, not only ‘for water’ but also for ‘food security’ and ‘for development’.

Thomas Hoerz, Welthungerhilfe Area Manager Somaliland

“In Kenya, the approach and technology on Roads for Water was well understood 60 years ago, where several farms adjacent constructed pools for watering livestock, rather than let the rainwater cause damage through erosion on their land. However, the technology disappeared until the last 5 years when MetaMeta revived and demonstrated its efficacy in several dryland counties of Eastern Kenya.

Given increasing pressure on water resources due to climate change, population growth and agricultural demand that frequently results in conflict, this guide is therefore a very welcome contribution to enhancing water security, converting an environmental hazard through erosion, to a valuable, lifesaving resource particularly for fragile arid lands, their livestock, wildlife, and livelihoods.

Simon Thuo, Rural Infrastructure Specialist, Kenya

“Roads are at the heart of all development; providing connectivity and pathways for progress. Unfortunately, roads and water have never been friends. Water is held responsible for damaging roads and conventional roads do not support water’s natural flow. However, the Green Roads approaches can offer opportunities for a symbiotic relationship. This hybrid approach holds potential to transform road development and achieve major benefits of water retention, improved water resource management and climate resilience. With climate change on the rise, Nature-based Solutions (Nbs) are a need of the time and offer a win-win for development and environmental conservation.”

Dr. Masood Arshad, Senior Director Water, Food & Climate, WWF – Pakistan