The socio-economic and environmental impact of Konkan Railways

Sponsor: 3ie – International Initiative for Impact Evaluation

The Konkan Railway (KR) was built in order to cater to the long standing demand for a railway line providing cheap and fast mode of transport through the Konkan region. The Konkan region is a part of the western coastal strip of India called Western Ghats. It is the biggest railway construction endeavour in independent India and the first railway service in India to provide an intermodal freight transport service titled the Roll on-Roll off (Ro-Ro) service. The construction of the KR began in 1990. A number of political and environmental controversies later, the complete line of 760 km became fully operational in 1998.

The proposed study seeks to evaluate the socio-economic and environmental impact of the KR and assess its contribution to low-carbon and sustainable development in India. Specifically the evaluation questions it seeks to answer are: What are the socio-economic impacts of KR, including potential urbanization effects? How has the environment in the Konkan region been affected and what is the contribution of the KR towards low-carbon and sustainable transport development? Have the stated project objectives of the KR been achieved, including improvements in connectivity, a reduction in distance and travel time, and projected freight movement?

Since a number of political, social, economic and environmental forces are at play in the construction and operation of any large infrastructure project, this study seeks to set the context of the evaluation by using a qualitative approach which includes analysing India’s leading newspapers and magazines coverage of the KR, among others. To quantitatively measure the socio-economic and environmental effects of the KR a quasi-experimental design using a difference-in-differences (DID) approach will be applied. An Instrumental Variable (IV) approach will additionally be used to test the robustness of the DID results. The sub-districts through which the KR passes will constitute the treatment group. Again, robustness checks will be performed, e.g. by conducting the analysis on the level of rural and urban agglomerations. The comparison group will consist of sub-districts or agglomerations that are as well located in the same agro-climatic zone of Western Ghats, which are however not connected to the railway line. The following socio-economic outcome indicators will be assessed: household amenities and incomes, workforce participation rate, social infrastructure, urbanization, and economic growth. The analysis will be based on secondary data provided mainly by the Census of India, the National Sample Survey Organization, Annual Survey of Industries and the Indian Economic Census. The environmental impact will be measured in terms of changes in land cover features such as water bodies, vegetative cover; crop land; and built-up area. The required data for land cover features will be extracted from Landsat and LISS-III/AWiFS, i.e. advanced remote sensing satellite data.

The study further seeks to measure the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions avoided by KR for passenger but also inter-modal transport service, the Ro-Ro service. For this purpose, a single difference approach will be used which uses the alternative modes of transport as counterfactual. Developing countries still face a large transport infrastructure gap. The transport investments they make today will lock in development patterns for decades to come. Worldwide railways are being promoted as a more environmental friendly mode of transport. India too is in need of efficient and sustainable transport infrastructure which can not only meet its developmental imperatives but also help in transitioning to a sustainable and low-carbon future. In this context, this study is expected to contribute towards the debates on re-launching railways because of environmental concerns. It can aid in understanding how developing countries can evolve their transportation policy in a manner that minimizes environmental damage, energy consumption while achieving economic development and improving people’s wellbeing.

Project Funders

3ie - International Initiative for Impact Evaluation

3ie is an international grant-making NGO promoting evidence-informed development policies and programmes. They funds impact evaluations and systematic reviews that generate evidence on what works in development programmes. They are the global leader in funding and producing high-quality evidence of what works, how, why and at what cost in international development.