Countries such as Sweden, Denmark and Germany share some common characteristics with respect to their highway agencies. In each of these countries, a national agency is responsible for developing and maintaining the national motorway system. Each government has given these agencies a safety mandate, with target levels ranging from no fatalities to a 40% reduction in fatalities and serious injuries.24 This focus on safety sets the stage for most actions regarding roadway geometric design and project development. In all these countries, three steps are typically followed in the project development process:
- a project need is identified on the basis of long-term plans or through a political request.
- a feasibility study is conducted to examine alternatives and public input sought.
- a final design is prepared for the project construction and completion.25
Unlike developing countries where a project is envisaged and announced to the public, European countries encourage public participation, even in the initial stages. Furthermore, integrating both human and natural environmental concerns is an integral part of the project development process in these countries.26
Public meetings and work groups are a vital part of project development in Germany. The Swedish National Road Administration has laid down a set of guidelines to be followed during the project development phase, including community planning, transparency (open mindedness and decisions involving the public), environmental concerns, safety, clearly explained decisions, and assurance of public understanding of these decisions.27 The Netherlands also presents all alternatives for a particular project at a public meeting, where the public’s assistance is sought to finalise the best alternative.
Moreover, the highway agencies of these countries are also committed to addressing environmental issues. They rely on local governmental agencies to develop environmental impact studies (EIS) for projects. Highway projects in India, especially those in mountainous regions, often face opposition from local communities due to environmental concerns. Stricter adherence to environmental norms and encouraging community participation can help address and mitigate such concerns in India.
Furthermore, in India, the public at large is often not aware of the finer details of highway development projects except what appear as news articles.
However, involving affected communities along the corridor of development is a common practice as part of the ancillary activities including road safety awareness campaigns and social safeguards processes.