Resilience in the Transport Sector

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Globally the number of natural disasters, i.e. climate related disasters such as flooding, drought, storms / cyclone and extreme temperature changes are increasing worldwide, particularly in the last few years.

Number of climate-related disasters around the world (1980-2011)[1]:

Number of Climate related disasters around the world (1980-2011).png
Number of Climate related disasters around the world (1980-2011)

Impact and Importance of Resilience in the Transport Sector

Within the period from 2000-2012, climate related disasters* had a serious impact on the world. In total they have caused[2]:

  • US$ 1.7 trillion of damage
  • 2.9 billion people have been directly affected
  • 1.2 million people have been killed

Disaster Impacts / 2000-2012[3]:

Disaster Impacts.png
Disaster Impacts

Within this section we will be considering a wide range of natural disasters but will be primarily focusing on natural disasters associated with climate change.

It has been forecasted that if the trend continuous damages could reach up to 20% of the entire global GDP at the end of the century.[4]

Over the period of the last 10 years, of the 10 deadliest disasters that have occurred worldwide, 7 have occurred within counties of Asia. In the graph below, the countries in red experienced more than 119 natural disasters. A closer look reveals that most of these countries lie in the Asian region.[5]

Asian one.jpg
Number of natural disasters by country 1976-2005

Urbanization exacerbates the damages that natural disasters causes, thus necessitating the need for communities to become resilient[6].

Urban Growth Rate.jpg
Urban Growth Rate

Resilience is defined as the ability of an individual, household, community, a country or a region to withstand, adapt and quickly recover from stresses and shocks caused by natural disasters.[7]

An important strategy to increase overall resilience is to improve the resilience of the transport system. Under normal conditions, it provides capable mobility options for moving passengers as well as goods. However under emergency or evacuation situations the significance of a system’s utility and value as a support role become more apparent. The same holds true for the system’s ability to support post-disaster recovery and supply efforts[8].Transport systems allow movements away from adverse conditions (i.e. removing things or people away from the destruction or damage being caused) or towards areas of greater need (i.e. provide resources to help with recovery work). In addition, the longer a transport system remains disrupted during and after a shock, the more severe economic losses will be for community/region. Climate changes taking place, in form of more natural disasters occurring, have the ability of severely disrupting transport services and/or damaging the infrastructure thus limiting mobility or putting it to a standstill in time of dire need[9].

Thus an efficient transportation system can play an important role towards making the community resilient[10]. The limited funds that are available for supporting transport infrastructure need to be used in an efficient and just manner in order to make the communities’ mobility resilient. This can be done by designing, developing and maintaining transport infrastructure that is able to meet the existing and future climate change conditions.

The following links below provide information on resources and projects on resilience in the transport sector, with a focus on adaptation towards climate change. Please also have a look at the article Adapting Urban Transport to Climate Change which provides more in-depth information.

Practical Example: The Green Road Concept

The Green Road Concept (GRECO) in the Nepal Himalayas describes a holistic vision of integrated sustainable Rural Road Access Development with short-term benefits of local income generation and long-term benefits of improved access. The GRECO is an experienced-based compilation of principles on environmental-friendly participatory low-cost Rural Mountain Road Development.

The construction work phase is optimally utilised for local off-farm income generation applying conservation-oriented labour-based technologies to overcome the current prevailing practice of uncontrolled and hasty, often mechanised linear rural road construction by inappropriate bulldozers in an extraordinary fragile mountain environment causing massive soil erosion in form of landslides and -slips along new roads and no future maintenance setup behind.

GRECO Principles:

1. Basic Rural Road Access Improvement is considered as socio-political and socio-economical agent to provide a basis for integrated rural development to reduce the economic rural-urban gap.

2. Conservation-oriented road net and road corridor planning maximising the access to settlement; road centre line selection between start and end points to minimise the destabilisation of the fragile hill slope balance and their protective vegetation cover. 

3. Social Mobilisation through formation of Local Road Coordination Committees and Road Building Groups offering preference of off-farm employment to local labourers which can compensate some negative road construction impacts.

4. Rural Road Project Resources Mobilisation combining various contributions from the stakeholders including natural and human resources from local partners and financial contributions from district and central government partners.

5. Institutional Development and federal governance through active involvement of a decision-making legislative District Roads Coordination Committee, an executive District Technical Office implementing Local NGOs and/or Consultants for construction supervision.

6. Conflict mitigation through active involvement of opposite stakeholders and parties and neutrally balancing out their duties and benefits. A combination of emergency relief, poverty reduction and road building efforts through food/cash for work providing an optimum basis for post-conflict and natural disaster rehabilitation.

7. Ecologically sustainable construction through phased and sectoral road construction methods and optimum preservation of barren slopes with a protective vegetation cover. Economical need-based road comfort development through staged road upgrading in line with the growing traffic volume and fund availability.

8. Good Governance promotion & application through "Public Audit", emphasising on financial transparency through local publication of available funds and actual expenditure, payment monitoring of pay rolls to each labourer.

9. The Development of sustainable regular rural road maintenance and rehabilitation system already during the construction period through development of ownership for the respective classified roads.

10. Participatory Preparation and Legalisation of a District Transport Master Plan including a long-term vision of the national, inter-district, district and village roadway, trail-, air-, water- and cableway networks for Longer-Term spatial rural-urban Accessibility and Transport Planning.

Projects and Resources in field of Resilience and Transport

Publications and Resources

Under this thematic area, all work that has been published or reported in field of Transport Resilience is mentioned.

Publications and Resources: Resilience in Transport

Research Projects

Under this thematic area, all research work that has been undertaken in field of Transport Resilience is mentioned.

Research Projects: Resilience in Transport Sector

Implementation Projects

Under this thematic area, implementation work that has been undertaken in field of Transport Resilience is mentioned.

Implementation Projects: Resilience in Transport Sector

Concluding Remarks / Summary

As illustrated through the work undertaken under various streams mentioned above, it is clear that at present our transportation systems are fragile. On the other hand, the transport sector plays a vital role in achieving economic growth of a country. Thus to ensure unhindered economic progress, it is increasingly becoming urgent to safeguard the transportation systems against the after math of natural disasters whose frequency of occurring is increasing at an alarming rate. To design such a resilient transportation system will require a robust regulatory reforms from the governments. Hence transportation sector should be considered as a key enabler towards making communities more resilient towards the climate change.

Further Information


  2. Source: UNISDR
  5. EM-DAT: The OFDA/CRED International Disaster Database –, Université Catholique de Louvain, Brussels (Belgium)
  7. Source: European Commission
  8. Amdal. James, Swigart. Stan , 2010; Resilient Transportation Systems in a Post Disaster Environment: A Case Study of opportunities realized and missed in the Greater New Orleans region
  9. Adapted text from
  10. Adapted text from Evaluating Transportation Resilience: Evaluating The Transportation System’s Ability To Accommodate Diverse, Variable and Unexpected Demands With Minimal Risk(