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Road Development and Environment Protection for Western Development

2000-11-03author:Hu Xijiesource:

  The environment and development, as one of the most important issues, have been gi ven mutual concerns by the world in the turn of the century;meanwhile, it has als o been a high priority to the government in every country. Facing the enormous pressures brought by the environment and transport development in China , the pub lic has extended more and more attentions and serious recognitions on the subjec t of environment protection in the road sector. It has become a mutual understand ing in the road sector to protect and improve the environment, carry out a sustai nable development strategy and promote a harmonize development between road and environment. It's imperative to resolve the environment protection issues when im plementing western development and expedite road development. 

  1. Highlights of Road Development & Planning for Western Devel opment

  1.1 Status Quo of Road Development in China

  The road sector has achieved significant development since the adopting of open door policy. By the end of 1999, the road network mileage has amounted to 1. 352 mi llion km, and it's ranked No. 4 in the World. The total added mileage is about 460 000 km during past 19 years. During "Sixth Five Year Plan", "Seventh Five Year Plan"and"Eighth Five Year Plan"period, the road mileage added is 54000km, 86000 km and 129000 km respectively. It's anticipated that the mileage added will be 24 0000 km in the "Ninth Five Year Plan"period. The size of road network has also expanded rapidly with a faster growth rate. The mileage of high standard highway for class Ⅱ and above has amounted to 169000 km and achieved twelvefold growth during the past 19 years. It takes around 10 years for the expressway to start fr om nil to more than 10000 km and it is No. 3 in the world. The ratio of rural road to township and village have been increased from 91. 5% and 65. 8% in early 1980s to 98. 3% and 90% respectively, with a separate growth of 7% and 24%. In particula r , since the government launched the policy to expedite infrastructure developme nt in 1998, the total completed investment in road sector amounts to 435. 7 billio n RMB, and the annual investment is equal to the total completed investment in th e "Eighth Five Year Plan"period. The mileage of expressway opened to traffic is 6634 km and newly added road mileage is 125000 km in 1998 and 1999. It's very r are with such a growth rate in the world transport history. 

  Although achieved the above progress, our road infrastructure still can't match w ith the land size and meets the demands of social and economic development. At pr esent, there is a huge difference between China and developed countries of the ro ad and expressway mileage. It's far behind for the road development in China west ern regions. In terms of quantity, it's 4. 2 times of the road density between east ern and western regions in 1980, and it has increased to more than fivefold in 19 99. In terms of quality, it's only 0. 7 percentage point higher for the easter n re gions than the western regions of the ratio between the mileage of class Ⅱ or a bove road and total road mileage in 1980, however, it has increased 13 percentage p oint difference by 1999. Currently, the major issues for the road development in western regions can be summarized as "One worse condition, two low capabilities and three shortages". 

  "One worse condition"refers to bad road condition of the road network in weste rn regions. The road pavement ratio is 45% lower for high standard and sub-high s tandard road in western regions than that in the eastern regions, and it's very c onspicuous for difficult travel in western regions. "Two low capabilities" refe r to lower road technical standard and lower accessibility. It's one third of the ratio of expressway and class Ⅱ above road among road network mileage between western and eastern regions. The ratio of the mileage of class Ⅳ and substandar d road among the network has reached to 74%. In 1999, the ratios of townships and villages in western regions unable to access the road have amounted to 95% and 5 8% of that of the whole country, and they are 25 times and 2 times respectively c ompared with eastern regions. "Three shortages"refer to shortage of road invest ment, lower sustainability and poor supporting capability. With a weak economic b ase, feeble fund raising capacity, short of government investment and backward of technical standard, it's the major cause to result in lower quality, class and acc essibility for road network in western regions. 

  1.2 Road Development Strategic Goals and Priorities in Western Regions

  According to the western development strategy, in order to prepare an thorough ar rangement for the western transport development, the Ministry of Communications h a s held an "Working Meeting on Transport Development for Western Development" i n this July. The official document "The Outline to Expedite Road Transport Devel opment Plan for Western Regions" is disseminated after the meeting, it has ident ified the guideline, principle, development goal and priorities for road developme nt in the western regions. 

  The "Outline of Plan" has identified the strategic goal of road development in western region, i. e. within the next twenty years, road transport will be changed essentially in western regions and a reasonably planned and fully furnished roa d transport and service network will be built basically. It can meet the social e conomic demand in general. Based on preliminary assumption, the goal will be reali zed in three stages. Firstly, the road transport will be given a tangible improvem ent by 2010;Secondly, the trunk road network will be established by 2020;Finally, the modernized road transport network in the western regions will be completed. T he key task is to complete the work in the first ten year. The priority of wester n road development can be divided into three levels: the first level is National Trunk Highway System(NTHS);the second level is accessibility work for rural roa d;the third level is regional road network improvement. 

  Firstly, the NTHS will be completed before 2010. 9 lines in the NTHS plan will lin k the west, including:Erlianhaote-Hekou Road, Southwest-Coast Road, Suifenhe-Manzho uli Road, Dandong-Lasa Road, Qingdao-Yinchuan Road, Lianyungang-Korgos Road, Shangha i-Chengdu Road, Shanghai-Ruili Road, Hengyang-Kunming Road. Most parts of these tru nk roads will be constructed in expressway standard. By the end of 1999, Nearly 50 00 km of NTHS road in western regions has been completed and opened to traffic, i t has amounted to 31% of the planned length. 6000 km of NTHS road is under constr ucting now and which amounts to 38% of the plan, the remaining 5000 km road will commence construction successively. 

  Secondly, to increase the accessibility of the road, resolving issues related to t ownship and village road. Realizing the goal that all the suitable villages will be linked with road before 2010, around 150000km road has been planned to be buil t. 

  Thirdly, a significant input should be allocated to resolve issues occurred in we stern regional road networks, i. e. low technical standard and road service level, l ess bridges and culverts, weaker antidisaster capability, low through traffic capa city etc. The regional road network will also be improved. It will include constru ction of inter-provincial transport corridor, key national and provincial trunk r oad improvement and upgrading of technical standard of road network etc. 

  Based on the goal of "Accelerate completion of transport corridor between weste rn and middle as well as eastern regions, southwest and northwest, access to river and coast and link with neighboring countries", according to the NTHS plan, we h ave planned the following eight inter-provincial roads for western development w hich will be the priority project for western regional road network improvement :

  The first road:Arongqi to Beihai Road(including Nanning to Wuzhou and Guilin bra nch line), it will pass major cities as Ulanhaote, Tongliao, Chifeng, Jining, Huhehao te, Baotou, Yan'an, Xi'an, Chongqing, Guiyang, Liuzhou, Nanning, Beihai, Wuzhou, Guilin. It grosses Inner Mongolia, Shanxi Province, East of Sichuan Province, Chongqing, Guiz hou and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, serves as a south-north line connect no rthwest and southwest regions and finally leads to coast, its total length is 6059 km. 

  The second road:Lanzhou to Yunnan Mohan Road, it will pass Lanzhou, Chengdu, Xichan g , Kunming and Mohan land port, serves as and important road transport corridor to link northwest, southwest regions and land port, its total length is 2490 km. 

  The third road:Aletai to Hongqilafu Road, it will pass Aletai, Kelamayi, Kuerle and Hongqilafu land port, serves as an road transport corridor to link south part a nd north part of Xingjiang and land port, its total length is 2990 km. 

  The fourth road:Xining to Kuerle Road, it will pass Xining, Jiayuguan, Dunhuang, Kue r le, serves as a horizontal transport corridor for the western region, its total le ngth is 2190 km. 

  The fifth road:Yinchuan to Wuhan Road, it will pass Yinchuan, Xi'an, Xiangfan and W uhan, serves as transport corridor to link northwest regions and middle part of C hina and provide access to the Yangtze River, its total length is 1620 km and 1120 km section locates in the western regions. 

  The sixth road:Xi'an to Hefei Road, it will pass Xi'an, Nanyang, Xinyang and Hefei and serves as a link between northwest and east part of China. Its total length i s 860 km and 230 km section locates in the western regions. 

  The seventh road: Chongqing to Changsha Road, it will pass Chongqing, Jishou, Chang sha and serves as horizontal shortcut to link the western and middle regions bet ween east of Chongqing and west of Hunan. Its total length is 1000 km and 457 km section locates in the western regions. 

  The eighth road:Chengdu to Xizang Zhangmu Road, it will pass Chengdu, Batang, Lasa, Rikaze and Zhangmu Land Port and serves as link between land port in Xizang to S ichuan and finally with middle and east part of China through Shanghai to Chengd u National Trunk Highway, its total length is 2897 km. 

  The above mentioned eight inter-provincial roads for western development will be constructed on the technical standard of class Ⅱ or above, only some line and a few sections will be the exceptions. The total length is about 18000 km. Of whic h, 3600 km road has been completed and 2500 km road is under construction, the rem aining 12300 km road will be newly constructed or improved. 

  In addition to the above eight roads, the regional road network will also include key national and provincial trunk routes, station and pivots etc. The scope of th e whole regional road network is about 195000 km. 

  As the planned target for the first ten years of western development, i. e. amelior ating road transport conditions in the western regions and providing basic trans port support for western development. To achieve the planned target of the first ten year period, it is estimated that total investment needed will be around 700- 800 billion RMB to construct or improve 0. 35 million km road.

  2. Enhancing Environment Protection Awareness to Ensure Sustain able Road Progress for Western Development

  2.1 The Adverse Environment Impact of the Road development

  As a development activity to the natural environment and resources, road developm ent will produce significant impact to social and economy. The road development w ill promote economy along the alignment, meanwhile it will generate a lot environ ment problems, too. Because the road has characteristics as long alignment, more c ontrol points and a variety of aspects etc. , so the impact to the environment is bigger and concerns with more aspects. It will through out the whole process duri ng construction and operation of the road. 

  2.1.1 Ecology Effect of Road

  Corridor effect:As a barrier, the road will divide and interclude the natural env ironment. Because of the road's dividing, the existing land outlook has been chang ed and the ecology environment of animal and flora has been insulated, it has wen t into making of restriction and threat to the growth and reproduction. 

  Approach effect:The road will enhance the density of both passenger and freight traffic along the road, enlarge the scope of human activities. It's an endanger to the protection of natural reserve site and scarce resources. 

  Urban effect:Opening of road will increase the land value along the road, bring e normous business potential and attract conglomeration and promote urbanization. U ltimately, as a result, more land will be needed for developing and utilization.  

  Microclimate effect:Road occupies land and reduces the size of green land. It has also alternated the flora and topography, easily inducing a geology damage and c ausing soil and water running out , and the direct consequence is the forming of adverse local environment along the alignment and lead to the ruin of environmen t. The thermal capacity of the exposed asphalt and cement pavement is low and of higher reflectivity, the forming of "heat wave corridor" will deteriorate local climate too. 

  2.1.2 The Environment Impact during Road Construction

  Land occupation for construction:Land will be occupied for road base, station and service areas, so does filling, disposing, temporary path for construction, operati on sites and accommodation for contractors etc. 

  Construction dust:Construction dust will pollute air along the road and it will influence the health of human being and growth of flora. 

  Water impairment caused by construction:Separation of water, water usage and wast e water of a road project will change the status of surface and underground wate r within the road territory. The water pollution or soil and water running out wi ll be the consequence if there is no measures adopted. 

  Construction noise:Construction noise will influence the human being's work and leisure. 

  2.1.3 The Environment Impact during Road Operation Period.

  The major environment impacts during operation are pollution caused by vehicle e mission, noise, waste disposal along the road, vehicle spillage and leakage, wastewa ter and trash in the service area. 

  2.2 Situation and Tasks of Environment Protection and Road Devel opment

  After twenty years' opening and reform, road environment protection has achieved significant accomplishment along with rapid road development. However, it is still a tough situation according to status quo and future development. It will should er heavy responsibilities for strengthening road environment protection. 

  2.2.1 Server Air Pollution by Vehicle Emission

  According to the statistics of four major pollutants, i. e. smoke dust, nitrogen dio xide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, the pollution caused by transport sector has amounted to 10% of the air pollution in China. The vehicle emission has become o ne of the major air pollution issues in China.

  2.2.2 Urgency to Resolve Traffic Noise Pollution

  Based on foreign statistics, the amount of noise produced by vehicle is about 75% of the total. The vehicle noise is higher in China due to their poor technical characteristics. Therefore, the traffic noise will become a serious issue along w ith the fast growth of vehicle ownership in China. 

  2.2.3 Some Influences to the Ecology Environment

  Along with the strengthening of the road infrastructure development activities, t h ere will be some damages to the plant in the forest, grassland, wetland and sands near the road. The environment pollution and damage to ecology due to road develo pment will generate the greater ecology pressure. 

  2.2.4 Incompatibility between Demands and Development for Road E nvironment Protection

  The road environment protection was initiated rather late and short of administr ation experience, regulation and relevant technical standards. To some extent, ther e are various phenomena as "pay much attention to physical works and less to en vironment" during road design and construction. Currently, road environment prot ection in China still can't get rid of low efficiency growth style, the contribut ion ratio is low through science technology for waste control and ecology enviro nment development. There is a shortage of innovations in road environment protect ion sector. There hasn't been any breakthrough in road e nvironment protection in high-tech such biology, information and new materials. 

  2.2.5 The Important International Issue for Road Environment Pro tection

  Transport industry is one of the big producers of greenhouse effect, ozone spoila ge and threats to biology varieties. Therefore, serious attention should be emphas ized to follow international environment protection convention. Meanwhile, the env ironment protection has become one of most important condition to introduce fore ign investment in the road sector. If the adverse environment impacts caused by r oad development can't be held effectively, it will affect China's influence and p articipation in the international community. 

  The above five issues have proposed advanced requirement to the environment prot e ction in the road development. Should a high priority and resolving measures not be given to these issues, not only can the key issue of harmonious development be tween transport and environment be settled, but also may lead a direct impact to social economic development in the regions along the road as well as life of hum an being and social unity and security.

  3. Environment Protection Measures for Western Road Development

  In light of difficult natural environment and complicated geology condition in w estern regions, it is very important to strengthen environment protection when bu ilding roads in special places as mountainous area, desert and grassland. With the progress of western road development, high standard road will be extended to mou ntainous area, then high filling and deep cutting will change the topography alon g the road, result in alternating of natural water flow system. The consequences will be environment problems as damage of flora, running out of soil and water an d instability of embankment etc. The natural scene and balance of ecology will be ruined and suffering the lost of previous harmonization. If the solid disposal, s uch as soil fetched, disposed soil and discarded tunnel gravel etc. were not well treated during construction, they could become new sources of soil and water runn ing out Therefore, with a responsibility for the sust ainability of whole society, the environment protection will be deemed as one of important factor in the procedure of road planning, design, construction, operation , administration and scientific research. We should fully consider the saving of r esources and energies, diminish pollution of air, sound, water and soil, and reduce influence of road to scene. We should also consider the influences of road to animal and p lant, culture, human society and psychology, develop a ecology friendly western roa d system. 

  3.1 Planning: The guideline will focus on sustainable development s trategy of coordinated development between transport and environment, and road se ctor development plan will include road environment protection plan. It will also combine the regulations and rules of environment protection to ensure smooth im p lementation of environment protection plan. Reasonably identify scope of road dev elopment and layout of road, mitigate its impact to environment. The transport dev elopment will contribute to economic prosperity and social advance, prevent envir onment pollution, maintain ecology balance and safeguard a better environment to the human being. 

  3.2 Design: By utilizing high-tech and state-of-art methodologies, reasonably identifying road alignment, technical specifications and alternatives, appropriately identifying bridges and tunnels, trying to avoid high filling and d eep cutting and minimizing occupation of land, grassland and forest. The road alte rnative with minimum impact to environment should be adopted when the road cros s or relate to some specific and sensitive ecological objects such as wetland, nat ural preserved area, forest and water sources etc. Relevant protection measures sh ould be studied and adopted according to the characteristics of sensitive ecolog ical objects. The environment assessment and environment design should be emphasi zed and ensure a relevant environment investment. 

  3.3 Construction:Strengthening construction management. Use advance d technique, material, equipment. Reduce construction noise and dust. Reasonably arr ange fetch site and disposal site, water usage. Prevent soil and water running out and water pollution. Reduce temporary land occupation and damage to green along the road.   

  3.4 Operation: Strengthening restoration and flora and planting bu ild a better road ecology system. Restoration of plants at the temporary construc tion site and refarming of soil fetch site can mitigate the damage of road const ruction to the environment significantly. The planting along the road will protec t road base and beautification and improve scene. It will abate traffic noise and prevent soil and water running out and environment pollution. The road planting in China cover anti-dizzy planting along central separation, slope planting prot ection, planting along the road, thorn plant prevention, 3-D planting for road ditc hes, greening and beautification of interchange area, service area and toll station. 

  3.5 Administration:In combination with environment regulations, ens uring implementation of road environment protection plan, carrying out environmen t evaluation of road project. The key procedure to realize coordinated sustainabl e development for road and environment protection is to materialize "the three simultaneities"i. e. parallel design, completion, check and accept of the environme nt project vs. road project. In the preparation stage, the environment protection p olicy is "top priority is protection, combination with treatment and integrated handling", aiming for materialize execution of environment protection evaluation , complete comprehensive environment evaluation of multi road alignment alternati ves. In the preliminary and detail design stage, deepening environment evaluation and soil and water preservation scheme. During construction stage, "the three sim ultaneities" will strictly followed. The various environment protection laws and regulations will be followed and the principle of "accountabilities of develop vs. restoration;utilization vs. compensation and pollution vs. treatment"will be launched too. The key environment protection project will be implemented well. During the operation stage, it is necessary to strengthen pl anting project along the road and environment monitoring. Evaluating pollution s cale of sensitive road section and carry out protection measures immediately.   

  3.6 R & D:According to environment protection requirement, we shoul d increase input on scientific research, strengthen alternative study on road tec hnical design, in particular on key techniques, strengthen high-tech such as intel ligent transport system(ITS). For western road development, based on the character istics that the ecology is fragile and low traffic flow in western regions, we sh ould identify a reasonable road standard, alignment, bridge and tunnel alternative s. Efforts should be given to enforce structures, protection facilities and improv ement of pavement quality. In the condition of meeting traffic demands, minimizing width of road base, reducing occupation of farmland, forest, grassland and mitigat ing damages to the environment. Strengthening studies on following subjects:long span bridge, long and larger road tunnel, special road base, treatment of road dete riorating, stability of biology and planting. Not only to meet the requirements of reduction of damage to environment by the far extent but also to contribute to western environment by developing a ecological road system. In considering the pr essures from the population, resources and environment and demands of western dev elopment, strengthen road related high-tech study such as ITS, introduce and absor b advanced foreign techniques, enhance innovation and raise road ITS capability, r ealizing the jumping development for the road sector in western regions. The ulti mate approach for a sustainable road and environment development is to provide a thorough transport service for the society by using the least resources and min imum tradeoff of environment. 

  Finally, "Environment Protection"is one of the basic national policies. All corr esponding beneficial measures should be adopted for executing western developmen t and expediting road development. It's a historical responsibility for the commun ications sector to undertake to strengthen environment protection. 

  In the turn of century, the human being has begun to realize the disaster caused by long time damage to environment and the sustainable strategy was proposed. Now , there is a tendency towards combination of human being and environment. It's an update of the recognition on relation between human being and environment, it's a l so a pursuit of reason. To protect and build a ecological environment, shift from traditional road development modality. As return of lower cost of resource and en vironment for a higher road growth rate, to achieve a combination of economic, soc ial and environment benefit, and leads to a sustainable road development. That's t he inevitable route for China's road development.

  Thank you!

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