Abstract

Twenty-five years after the publication of the pioneering work in the field of mountain road engineering geomorphology by D. Brunsden, J. C. Doornkamp, D. K. C. Jones and others, the design and construction performance of the Dharan-Dhankuta road in Nepal vindicates the approach that was applied in this geotechnically challenging part of the Himalayas. The use of engineering geomorphology as a forerunner to more detailed geotechnical studies during design and construction proved an extremely worthwhile exercise. Despite this, the wider use of engineering geomorphology in Nepal since then has been disappointingly low. There are instances where a lack of engineering geological or geomorphological appreciation has led to recurrent problems, leading to design and even alignment modifications. Elsewhere, engineering geology has provided sufficient information and interpretation to enable design to proceed effectively, and the evaluation of slope and drainage hazards as past, recurrent and potential future risk elements has required geomorphological assessment as the critical path activity. However, rapid geomorphological reconnaissance mapping remains a largely judgemental exercise, and one that still suffers from outcome uncertainty despite the passage of 25 years of applied Himalayan geomorphology. Nevertheless, as an observational and interpretative technique that attempts to combine past geology with current and predicted future geomorphology, it should be a critical element in any mountain road engineer’s geological tool box. The future for engineering geomorphology is reliant on a greater integration between landforms, processes and hazards, and the development of a wider appreciation and commitment in both the training and industrial spheres.

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