Sustainable road transportation systems in the Kanyakumari district, Tamil Nadu, India

Tejas Rawal, of the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, used model simulations to explore the best policy options for achieving a sustainable transport network in Tamil Nadu, India.

Tejas Rawal

Tejas Rawal


Transportation systems can be a catalyst for sustainable development. In India, the transportation system has suffered much due to lack of sustainable transportation planning, weak infrastructure in the less developed regions, inadequate financial resources, encroachment on both sides of the roads, densely packed road junctions, massive increases in numbers of vehicles, and so on. A number of studies worldwide have shown that systematically planned improvements in road transportation infrastructure ensures mobility of vehicles and ultimately people without compromising accessibility, which consequently leads to greater socioeconomic and environmental sustainability. Our study site was the Kanyakumari district, the southernmost local administrative region of Tamil Nadu State in India. The objective of the study is to analyze how sustainable road transportation systems can be achieved and evolve policy interventions so as to attain social, economic, and environmental sustainability in the study area. Parameters assumed to affect the sustainability of the district are: gross district domestic product (GDDP), employment in man-hours, carbon emissions and land severance (unused or wasted transportation land).


Surveys were used for data collection. Primary data were collected through household surveys by using a systematic stratified random sampling process. Traffic and road related data were collected through traffic surveys and physical surveys of road sections. Relevant statistical data were also collected from secondary sources including published and unpublished documents. Data were analyzed by using relevant statistical methods such as descriptive statistics, correlation, and regression. Following this, systems dynamics models were developed to comprehend various sustainable road transportation indicators and socioeconomic indicators in region such as road network gap; vehicular growth; level of service (LOS) for hierarchical roads (i.e. national highway, state highway, major district road, municipal roads, and other/rural roads); carbon emissions gap; fuel consumption gap; GDDP; man-hours employment; and transportation area wasted or unused. The simulated model results were used for evolving policy interventions to achieve sustainable road transportation, which can act as a catalyst for the socioeconomic and environmental sustainability in the study area.

Results and conclusions

Through development of the causal feedback loop model, the literature review and the simulation scenario analysis of system dynamics model; the most positively and negatively affecting variables for sustainability in road transportation system in Kanyakumari district were identified. These included transportation infrastructure investment and vehicle volume. In the business as usual scenario, the road network gap will increase, resulting in higher demand for road infrastructure, congestion levels on the road network will increase sharply, and normal and peak hour LOS will deteriorate drastically. No significant gain is expected in GDDP or employment man-hours because of the dilapidated condition of road infrastructure. The carbon emission gap and fuel consumption gap will increase considerably, due to the rise in numbers of vehicles, negatively affecting human health. Finally, a substantial amount of transportation land area is expected to remain unused or wasted. Through simulations of various scenarios, we can identify reasonable policy interventions to achieve sustainability by 2041. These interventions can help achieve and overcome the road network gap, carbon emission gap, and fuel consumption gap; the peak and normal hour LOS can improve strongly for overall road network and all hierarchical roads; noteworthy improvements could be expected in GDDP and employment man-hours; and unused or wasted transportation land area is anticipated to be substantially reduced over time.


Dillip Kumar Das, Department of Civil Engineering, Central University of Technology, Free State, South Africa

Michael Thompson, Risk, Policy and Vulnerability Program, IIASA

M. Bruce Beck, Warnell School of Forestry & Natural Resources, University of Georgia, USA


Tejas Rawal, of the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, is a citizen of India and was funded by the IIASA Indian National Member Organization during the SA-YSSP.

Please note these Proceedings have received limited or no review from supervisors and IIASA program directors, and the views and results expressed therein do not necessarily represent IIASA, its National Member Organizations, or other organizations supporting the work.   

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Last edited: 02 February 2016


Ulf Dieckmann

Principal Research Scholar Exploratory Modeling of Human-natural Systems Research Group - Advancing Systems Analysis Program

Principal Research Scholar Systemic Risk and Resilience Research Group - Advancing Systems Analysis Program

Principal Research Scholar Cooperation and Transformative Governance Research Group - Advancing Systems Analysis Program

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