Rural roads are important for the communities in the hilly areas of Nepal as they introduce livelihood opportunities at the local level, and provide better access to the healthcare, education, and resources. Yet, most of the rural roads in Nepal are unplanned and non-engineered, and these roads are often closed for many months during and after the monsoon. Such roads require huge investments, especially post-monsoon, to clear debris and to keep them operational. In parallel, there is evidence that such roads lead to a large number of slope failures and accelerated sedimentation, which degrade the environment and ecosystem services. To remedy such roadside slope failures, eco-engineering practices were tested and demonstrated in partnership with three communities in the Panchase Region of the Nepal’s Central–Western hills. Eco-engineering is a hybrid approach, combining civil engineering works for drainage and slope stability, with the plantation of deep-rooted vegetation. It is one activity contributing to nature-based solutions (NbS) for the sustainable and long-term operation of the rural roads in the Panchase geographic region. This paper describes the inter-disciplinary and community-based research, monitoring, and evaluation methods applied, including the establishment of onsite demonstration plots and rhizotrons in which key performance indicator (KPI) analysis of plant species was performed. The results demonstrated the effectiveness of eco-engineering for reducing risk, while creating ecological co-benefits along rural roads (or eco-safe roads) in hilly areas. Based on this research, an “eco-safe rural road assessment framework” was developed, outlining the systematic process to be followed for the design of eco-safe rural roads for more sustainable road construction and maintenance. The eco-engineering practices which are being promoted by this framework were accepted by communities and could be further implemented by local government bodies and upscaled in other similar hilly areas around the country.
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