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Climate is changing… So the way we manage roads needs to change as well

Chris Bennett's picture
Photo: Christopher R. Bennett/World Bank
Few things are more depressing than seeing the damage caused by cyclones on transport infrastructure. Especially when it is a causeway that was only formally opened less than one month before the storm. That is what I found in early 2014 when participating in the Tonga Cyclone Ian Post Disaster Needs Assessment. The cyclone was a typical example of the heavy toll that climate change is taking on transport infrastructure, particularly in the most vulnerable countries.

Engineers are taught that water is the greatest enemy of transport infrastructure, and unfortunately climate change is leading to an increase in floods and storms, especially within the South-East Asia region. For example, the figure below shows the number of floods and storms for some Asian countries between 2000 and 2008. The significant increase in the number of floods is self-evident.

The “plastic bridge”: a low-cost, high-impact solution to address climate risk

Oliver Whalley's picture
Also available in: Français
Photo: Anthony Doudt/Flickr
Bridges are critical links in the transport network. In their position across waterways, they are exposed to the full effects of flooding and landslides, and are often the first pieces of infrastructure to be damaged in the event of a disaster. They also typically take weeks or months to repair.  Besides causing expensive damage to the infrastructure itself, disruptions in connectivity also have a much broader impact on economic productivity and people’s ability to access essential services. As many places are expected to witness more intense and frequent rainfall as a result of climate change, the risk to bridges will only worsen: more rainfall will lead to bigger river flows and more damage to bridges, especially those designed to handle smaller storms.

At each end of a bridges is a structure which supports the weight of the deck. These are known as abutments, and they are often the first part of the bridge to fail. Blockage of the main channel by debris can cause water to look for the path of least resistance around the sides of the bridges, thus placing the abutments at risk.

Traditional bridge construction requires the installation of piles for the foundations of abutments—a lengthy and expensive process that involves specialist materials, skills and equipment.

But there is another promising solution: Geosynthetic Reinforced Soil (GRS) abutments. These allow for rapid and resilient construction of bridge abutments using locally available materials, without specialized equipment. With GRS, bridges can be constructed in as little as five days (Von Handorf, 2013) and at a cost 30-50% lower than traditional approaches (Tonkin and Taylor, 2016) .

GRS abutments are based on ‘geogrids,’ a high density mesh made out of polyethylene (plastic). Layers of soil and geogrid are combined to create a solid foundation for the bridge deck. Construction can be completed with basic earthmoving and compaction equipment, and a range of local fill materials can be used with guidance from geotechnical specialists.

Climate change is forcing us to reinvent rural transport for the better

Ashok Kumar's picture
Photo: Ravisankar Pandian/Flickr
India is in the midst of implementing PMGSY, a $35-billion national level Rural Road Program designed to provide basic road access to rural communities. The World Bank is supporting PMGSY through a series of lending operations ($1.8 billion in Bank funding) and significant knowledge support. A key element of the Bank’s support has been to integrate a “climate and green growth lens” into these efforts in cost-effective ways.

How is “green growth” benefiting India? One important dimension of that effort has been  the use of environmentally optimized road designs, which has resulted in quality infrastructure using local and marginal materials, providing both economic and environmental benefits. Where available, sand deposits accumulated from frequent floods, industrial by-products, and certain types of plastic, mining, and construction waste have been used to good effect. Designs that use such materials have been about 25% cheaper to build, on average, than those requiring commonly used rock aggregates. The environmental benefits of using the above materials, in terms of addressing the big disposal problem of such materials and reducing the consumption of scarce natural stone aggregates, are as significant as the cost savings.

A second “green growth” dimension has been focusing investments on the “core” network, i.e. the network India needs to develop in order to provide access to all villages. Relative to a total rural road network of about 3.3 million kilometers, the core network that falls under PMGSY stretches over only 1.1 million kilometers. Prioritizing construction and maintenance on those critical road links will bring down costs as well as the associated carbon footprint.

A new partnership to enhance the climate resilience of transport infrastructure

Shomik Mehndiratta's picture
Photo: Norsez Oh/Flickr
Since 2002, more than 260,000 kilometers of road were constructed or rehabilitated by World Bank supported projects. For these investments, and future Bank transport investments to really realize their intended impact supporting the Bank to achieve its twin goals, we believe it is critical that they are resilient to climate and possible climate change.
 
Already transport damages and losses often make up a significant proportion of the economic impacts of disasters, frequently surpassing destruction to housing and agriculture in value terms. For example, a fiscal disaster risk assessment in Sri Lanka highlighted that over 1/3 of all damages and losses over the past 15 years were to the transport network. Damage is sustained not only by road surfaces or structures, but also by bridges, culverts, and other drainage works, while losses occur when breaks in transport links lead to reduced economic activity.
 
Along with additional stress from swelling urban populations worldwide, rising sea levels, changes in temperatures and rain patterns, and increasing severity and frequency of floods and storm events are the key climate change factors that make conditions more volatile. Ultimately it is these scenarios and their potential outcomes that threaten the longevity and functionality of much existing transport infrastructure. Indeed, damage to transport infrastructure and consequent disruption to communities from climactic events is a growing threat.
 
Compounding the challenge of addressing these conditions is the difficulty that exists in precisely forecasting the magnitude, and in some cases the direction, of changing climactic parameters for any particular location. Meanwhile, the risk of wasting scarce resources by ‘over designing’ is as real as the dangers of climate damage to under designed infrastructure.
 
To identify the optimal response of our client governments to this threat and to ensure that all transport infrastructure supported by the Bank is disaster and climate resilient, we have created a joint partnership between the Bank’s transport and disaster risk management (DRM) communities – a partnership of complementary expertise to identify practical cost-effective approaches to an evolving challenge. We have come together to better define where roads and other transport assets should be built, how they should be maintained, and how they can be repaired quickly after a disaster to enable swift recovery.

Rio: A hot city tackles global warming through mass transit

Daniel Pulido's picture
SuperVia, Rio de Janeiro / 2.0 Brasil

It is the end of another hot day in Rio de Janeiro. I’m tired and sweaty after spending the afternoon checking out the progress on some of the city’s train stations, which are being renovated for the upcoming Olympic Games. But I’m also happy, having witnessed the progress made in improving Rio’s suburban rail system, known as SuperVia, which the World Bank has been supporting for the last 20 years.

Gender equality in transport is good for business: Suggestions to ensure successful gender mainstreaming

Catalina Crespo-Sancho's picture

Also available in: العربية

Women’s economic equality is good for business. It is clear that women play a fundamental role in building and sustaining the world economy.
 
They offer a powerful source of economic growth and opportunity. Women contribute not only to the formal economy, but also through the valuable and generally unpaid tasks of caregiving and homemaking. It has been proven that better opportunities in education, health, employment, and policies lead to better well being for women, their communities and — in turn — the economic and social well-being of a country.
 
However, only recently has the relationship of gender and infrastructure — more specifically, transport — and the role it plays in a country’s social and economic well-being been addressed.
 
Transport networks are one of the most important elements of a country’s infrastructure, and they are key to reducing poverty and promoting equality. A country’s transport infrastructure generally centers on enabling the supply of goods, connecting and providing access to people, services and trade, with the objective of bringing economic prosperity to a nation. However, it has been only in the past five to ten years that infrastructure projects have started to include gender awareness as part of their investment decisions.
 
As women become even more central to a country’s economy, addressing their transportation needs takes on an essential role in promoting economic growth and prosperity.

Will the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank become the new musketeer?

Arturo Ardila's picture
On Monday, China officially launched the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in a ceremony with representatives from the bank's 57 founding-member countries. AIIB will have a capital base of US$100 billion, three-quarters of which come from within Asia.
 
Infrastructure is a growing need for Asia,
and collaboration is critical to filling
gaps. Photo: World Bank

At the inaugural ceremony in the Great Hall of the People, Chinese President Xi Jinping reaffirmed the new institution's mission, saying that "Our motivation [for setting up the bank] was mainly to meet the need for infrastructure development in Asia and also satisfy the wishes of all countries to deepen their co-operation."

Indeed, the AIIB is a major piece of China's regional infrastructure plan, which aims to address the huge needs for expanding rail, road and maritime transport links between China, central Asia, the Middle East and Europe. But the AIIB should also represent a huge opportunity for cooperation not only between countries in the region but also with other multilateral development banks.

Our experience working on transport mega-projects co-financed by several multilateral development banks (MDBs) already shows that this collaboration is much needed and critical for the success and viability of mega-projects. The most recent experience with the Quito Metro Line One Project, for example, shows that the co-financing banks – World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, Andean Development Corporation and European Investment Bank –  brought not only their financial muscle but also their rich and diverse global knowledge and experience.  Incidentally, because of the Quito Metro project, all the MDBs involved in the project were dubbed as the  “musketeers, ” precisely due to the high degree of collaboration and team work that is making this project a success.

Do better roads really improve lives?

Eric Lancelot's picture
Also available in: Español | Français | العربية | Português

How can improved roads change peoples’ lives? How much do people benefit from road projects? Answering these seemingly simple questions is, in fact, much trickier than it appears.

We recently concluded an impact evaluation to measure the socio-economic impacts of World Bank-financed municipal road improvements on poor rural households in the state of Tocantins, Brazil. After 10 years of study, what were the results and lessons learned? And how did we go about conducting the evaluation?

The study followed a methodology traditionally used in impact evaluations in the social sector and was based on a precedent in Vietnam. Throughout the state, one of the least-developed and least-populated in Brazil, most municipal roads are unpaved with inadequate maintenance. The World Bank’s municipal roads project helped construct 700 concrete bridges and 2,100 culverts crossing rivers and streams, providing year-round access to remote populations that once couldn’t access municipal centers during rainy season.

The anticipated result chain of the project was as follows: improvement of physical accessibility would contribute to increase travel demand to markets, schools and health services. This would, in turn, contribute to improved education, better health and increased business opportunities. Finally, it would result in long-term household income growth.

Our study aimed at measuring these impacts through a “difference in differences with matching,” a method that compares a treatment group (population benefiting from the interventions) and a control group (population that does not), while ensuring similar socio-economic characteristics (or comparability) between groups. An “instrumental variables estimator” was then used to confirm the robustness of the results.

The results show positive socio-economic impacts to rural residents, as well as provides for several policy implications:

Ahorro Pensional para Proyectos: ¿Un nuevo significado para las APP en América Latina?

Daniel Pulido's picture
Also available in: English
Siga al autor en Twitter: @danpulido
 
Los proyectos de infraestructura implementados a través de asociaciones público-privadas (APP) han sido tradicionalmente financiados por los bancos. Sin embargo, en la medida en que el dinero a largo plazo de estas instituciones financieras se ha vuelto más difícil de conseguir y más costoso y los activos de los fondos de pensiones y otros inversionistas institucionales han seguido aumentando, el interés por atraer el gran acervo de capital que estos últimos manejan ha crecido rápidamente. En un contexto de bajos rendimientos para los bonos, los fondos de pensiones están buscando oportunidades atractivas de inversión a largo plazo para diversificar sus tenencias y cumplir con sus obligaciones de pago de largo plazo. Tras darse cuenta de la oportunidad que existe para acercar la oferta y la demanda de financiación, los Gobiernos y los inversionistas en los países desarrollados y en desarrollo han dirigido su atención hacia los “bonos de proyectos”, instrumentos de deuda emitidos por empresas en los mercados de capitales como una manera de financiar inversiones en infraestructura.

Estos “bonos de proyectos” están principalmente dirigidos a inversionistas institucionales —incluidos fondos de pensiones— y han generado un gran interés entre banqueros de inversión, firmas de abogados e inversionistas. Todo este bombo plantea una serie de preguntas: ¿Están los "bonos de proyectos" realmente a la altura de las expectativas? ¿Pueden los Gobiernos depender de los ahorros pensionales para financiar proyectos (¡un nuevo significado para la sigla APP!)? ¿Qué necesitamos hacer para convertir a los fondos de pensiones en una fuente de financiamiento significativa y así terminar con el déficit de inversión en el sector de infraestructura?

Pensioners Paying for Projects: A new meaning for PPP in Latin America?

Daniel Pulido's picture
Also available in: Español
Follow the author on Twitter: @danpulido
 
Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects in infrastructure have traditionally been financed by banks. However, interest in new funding sources is increasing as long-term money from banks has become more difficult and expensive to get, while the assets held by pension funds and other institutional investors have continued to soar. In a context of low bond yields, pension funds are looking for attractive long-term investment opportunities to diversify their holdings and meet their long-term payment obligations. Realizing an opportunity to match supply and demand, governments and investors in the developed and developing world have turned their attention to Project Bonds, debt instruments issued by PPP project companies in the capital markets as a way to fund infrastructure investments.

These “Project Bonds” mostly target institutional investors - including pension funds, and have generated a great deal of interest among investment bankers, lawyers and investors. All this hype raises a number of questions: Are these “Project Bonds” really living up to expectations? Can governments really rely on Pensioners Paying for Projects (a newfound meaning for PPPs!)? What do we need to do to turn these instruments into a significant source of financing and close the infrastructure investment gap?

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