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02 de October de 2018 Latin American roads are not well prepared to cope with climate change
1img -  Latin American roads are not well prepared to cope with climate change

A new guide published by CAF-development bank of Latin America- proposes a series of short, medium and long term adaptation measures to alleviate and prevent damage caused by climate on Latin American roads, and thereby achieve greater efficiency of infrastructure investments.

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The majority of Latin American countries face serious institutional, technical, financial, political and social challenges to adapt their roads to climate, which jeopardizes the safety and sustainability of road systems in the region, and will most likely be exacerbated by the negative effects of climate change.

Faced with this situation, CAF-development bank of Latin America- has published a Guide to Good Practices for the adaptation of roads to climate, which proposes adaptation measures in the short, medium and long term, including environmental management tools, planning and risk management based on climate variability.

The document puts forward ideas for both the existing network and roads to be built in the future, and proposes measures based on two pillars: strategic planning, which involves creating appropriate institutional, legal and social frameworks; and specific measures including good engineering practices for the design and construction of more resilient infrastructures.

The publication proposes three complementary lines of action to improve the current situation:

  • Review of the criteria applied for decision-making during evaluation of investments, which should include variables that take into consideration the impact of new climate conditions and geological complexity;
  • Creation of funds that enable implementation of climate adaptation measures in road projects, i.e. not only for mechanisms designed to handle emergencies caused by natural disasters;
  • Generation of further knowledge on the impact of climate change and its consequences on road infrastructure.

“In order to have safe, more climate-resilient roads, cross-cutting strategies will need to be defined in the coming years to adapt our infrastructure to climate throughout its lifespan, and to promote the use of good practices in road projects,” explained Antonio Silveira, Vice President of Infrastructure at CAF. 

The publication also warns that if road planning and design continues to be performed based only on traditional engineering practices in the region and existing historical data, we might not be able to respond to the climate events that have been occurring in recent years and that, predictably, will happen again in the future. 

Heterogeneity among countries

According to the Guide, the current situation in Latin America and the Caribbean shows a certain degree of heterogeneity among countries. While some have begun to develop adaptation plans, others are still in the very early stages, although states in general acknowledge the need for action in this area.

Multilateral institutions are launching ambitious aid programs for adaptation to climate change and variability, although the application on road infrastructure is relatively recent and existing experiences are limited. There is usually no efficient coordination at the national level between different government authorities, and this situation extrapolates to national and sub-national relations. According to the Guide, this will be one of the great challenges of the coming years, along with the transfer of information and networking in the region.

Cycle of resilient road projects

The Guide to Good Practices proposes a working procedure based on a series of steps that should lead to safe, climate resilient roads for the transportation of people and goods. 

1. Institutional commitment that establishes policies, plans, budget allocations, as well as actions for institutional strengthening to ensure that governments are prepared to lead the conceptual change that needs to be brought about.

2. Creation of specific plans for climate adaptation of roads.

3. Creation of a collaborative work environment for climate adaptation, involving public and private sectors, scholars, media and society as a whole.

4. Implementation and monitoring of climate adaptation measures

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