An investigation of the combined effect of rainfall and road cut on landsliding
Combined effect of rainfall and road cut on landsliding was investigated.
Integrated methodology with field and laboratory testing and numerical modelling was adopted.
Reliability of numerical modelling was improved by calibration against field measurements.
Two ways by which road cuts promote rainfall-induced landslides were identified.
The reduction of soil suction and consequent loss of shear strength due to infiltration is known to trigger shallow landslides during periods of concentrated rainfall. In the mountainous terrain of Nepal, the risk of shallow rainfall-induced landsliding is further exacerbated by non-engineered hillslope excavation for local roads construction. To better understand the combined effect of rainfall and road cutting on landsliding, a detailed investigation of a shallow landslide was conducted, on a site with a steep road cut that failed due to rainfall infiltration in July 2018. An integrated investigation approach was adopted, combining field and laboratory testing and field monitoring with a series of coupled hydro-mechanical analyses with the finite element code PLAXIS 2D. The field and laboratory tests were performed to characterise the subsoil condition and determine the soil parameters for the hydro-mechanical analyses. The field monitoring program was set up to obtain real-time measurements of rainfall and volumetric water content of the soil. The monitored data was used to calibrate the numerical model and assess the reliability of its predictions. Results of the numerical back-analysis suggest that the investigated landslide was triggered by rainfall infiltration causing a gradual reduction of soil suction at shallow depths of ≤1.7 m and the presence of the steep road cut promoted slope failure by allowing larger displacements to occur in the hillslope. Without the road cut, the slope was found to have ~35% greater initial factor of safety and under the landslide-triggering rainfall, the undisturbed slope was found to remain stable with ~170% greater factor of safety than that in the slope with the road cut. This indicates that the presence of a road cut increases the likelihood of landslide during rainfall and lowers the minimum level of rainfall needed for landslide initiation. Hence, rainfall-induced roadside slope failures could become more frequent and extensive if roads continue to be built by informal slope excavation, without adopting suitable interventions, some examples of which are presented in this study.