• By 2050, 5 million kilometers of new highways will have been built globally.
• Nine out of ten of these roads will be located in developing countries, in areas that provide irreplaceable shelter for the planet’s biodiversity.
• The Nature Conservancy (TNC), administrator of the Valdivian Coastal Reserve and the Ministry of Public Works (MOP) of the Los Ríos Region invited international experts Juan Quintero and Gordon Keller to discuss tools for intelligent road planning and execution.
• Simultaneously, we launched a Best Practices Guide for environmentally friendly roads, developed by the Latin America Conservation Council (LACC) of The Nature Conservancy.
Roads boost economies, however, can also seriously damage and affect the natural ecosystems that provide vital services to life on Earth. However, good road planning can allow development without negatively impacting nature.
For this reason, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Public Works Ministry of the Los Ríos region organized a workshop with the international experts Juan Quintero and Gordon Keller, to discuss tools to better incorporate environmental aspects, thus making the design of these roads more sustainable.
According to IDB studies, in certain Latin American countries rural road projects increased women’s income by 14%, girls’ primary school attendance by 7%, and the number of health care center visits by women and children by 55%.
Undoubtedly, an important contribution to local development.
However, the 21st century will see an unprecedented expansion of roads, with at least 25 million kilometers of new roads planned for by 2050.
“90% Of these roads will be built in developing nations, home to many of the most biologically diverse and environmentally important ecosystems in the world. We need to think about this development in a way that allows us to not generate losses in terms of conservation and biodiversity” says Juan Quintero, an infrastructure expert and author of the “Environmentally Friendly Road Map”.
The The Nature Conservancy managed Valdivian Coastal Reserve, supported by BHP Billiton, has firsthand experience with why building a road in a conservation area should be planned taking not only into consideration its positive effects on surrounding communities, but also its impact on nature.
At the beginning of the 2000’s, and prior to the acquisition of the properties that currently constitute the Valdivian Coastal Reserve, the Chilean State agreed to suspend and reevaluate the Coastal Route Project, that was to be executed in the early years of the millennium.
According to TNC data, this decision avoided the deforestation of 86 hectares, which would have resulted in a carbon emissions equivalent to 69.000 tons.
Beginning in 2011, the Ministry of Public Works (MOP) developed a pre-feasibility study to determine alternatives for a coastal connection in the area between Chaihuín and Río Bueno, including environmental, participatory and indigenous consultation variables.
This study concluded with the selection and development of the preliminary road design of a route that uses a large part of the preexisting road (T-470) which connects the towns of Chaihuin and Hueicolla, and includes some additional connections apart of the T-80 route between Hueicolla and La Unión.
The Best Practices Guide for Environmentally Friendly Roads, developed by The Nature Conservancy’s Latin American Conservation Council was launched during this workshop.
It focuses on integrating environmental considerations throughout the project cycle – from planning to implementation and maintenance.
By raising awareness and access to these best practices, it seeks to encourage government authorities, practitioners, and industry to adopt and consider them as an initial investment to minimize unpredictable delays and conflicts and, ultimately, as an investment in a sustainable future which balances development and conservation for people and nature.
One of the methodologies that guest speaker Juan Quintero addressed during the workshop concerns the hierarchy of mitigation, a concept developed by The Nature Conservancy within the framework of its Latin American Strategy for Intelligent Infrastructure.
This hierarchy aims first to avoid, subsequently to mitigate and, finally, to compensate for the inevitable impact that the development of infrastructure such as roads have on the environment. The ultimate goal is to achieve zero net loss of “Natural Capital”, which includes biodiversity and eco-systemic services.
The Seremi of Public Works, Jorge Alvial, stressed that “This instance is a good opportunity for partnership between the Ministry of Public Works and the private sector, aimed at sustainable planning of our future regional routes, which emphasizes the value of our territory from the points of view of biodiversity to touristic development to civil education”.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading global organization in biodiversity conservation for people with more than 30 years of work in Latin America. Its mission is to conserve the lands and waters on which life depends. TNC and its more than one million members have achieved the protection of more than 52 million hectares in the world. To know more about our work, visit the TNC Global Website.
The Conservation Council for Latin America (LACC) is an unprecedented group of global leaders dedicated to foster public-private collaboration and to accelerate The Nature Conservancy’s scientific and pragmatic solutions for three major regional challenges: Water Security, Sustainable Food and Intelligent Infrastructure, to benefit both people and nature.
For more information, visit the Latin America Conservation Council Website.