The government of Colombia launched the first guidelines to develop green road infrastructure

Posted on February, 24 2021

These are the Green Road Infrastructure Guidelines (GRI), a series of environmental, social and engineering consideration that guide the development of sustainable road infrastructure in all its stages.
  • These are the Green Road Infrastructure Guidelines (GRI), a series of environmental, social and engineering consideration that guide the development of sustainable road infrastructure in all its stages.
  • The first pilot of the Green Road Infrastructure Guidelines is being implemented in the department of Guaviare, the second most deforested in the country.

Today Colombia has a new guide for road construction plans, programs and projects to avoid and mitigate harming forests and their biodiversity, especially in areas of high environmental sensitivity such as the Amazon.

The launch of the Green Road Infrastructure Guidelines was carried out by the President of the Republic, and the Ministers of Transport and Environment and Sustainable Development. The development of this guide has been technically supported by WWF Colombia and the Foundation for Conservation and Sustainable Development (FCDS, by its Spanish acronym).

The objective of this guideline is to prevent, mitigate and correct possible indirect and direct negative environmental impacts of road construction, including the consideration of climate change criteria and engineering recommendations that aims to optimized costs of construction and maintenance of roads in the long term.

You can also read: How to face the problems generated by the construction of roads in the Colombian Amazon?

This guide will not only benefit forests, but also seeks to avoid social conflicts associated with road infrastructure projects -especially those related to land use- and to strengthen the social participation and governance of local communities, through capacity building.

For this purpose, mechanisms are proposed to facilitate local participation, as well as the dissemination of information for communities about environmental impacts, social conflicts and opportunities offered by sustainable transportation infrastructure projects, to strengthen permanent communication channels between communities and entities.

Piloting the GRI in the Amazon: A road in Guaviare

The first pilot project of this new guide is being implemented in the department of Guaviare with the support of Moore Foundation, WWF Colombia and FCDS. It is a great contribution to the conservation of the region, taking into account that, in recent decades, road construction has been one of the main drivers of deforestation in the Colombian Amazon, as has been pointed out by the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Studies Environmental (Ideam).

You can also read: The evils of the Amazon, an X-ray in times of a pandemic.

The organizations involved are developing this pilot on a road that connects he municipalities of San José and Calamar, located in the department of Guaviare. This is the third department most affected by loss of forest in the country, as it added 24,330 hectares deforested in 2019, according to the latest Ideam annual report.

The goal with this pilot is to generate technical information to consider the main applicable environmental, social, and economic variables; minimize risks, and evaluate the decisionmaking process, so these criteria can be replicated throughout the country.

Additionally, WWF and FCDS will support the Interministerial Committee between the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, to define the appropriate mechanisms to adopt these guidelines and provide a policy or regulatory recommendations that allow their implementation in the medium and long term.

In the same way, the involvement of the public and private, national and international financial sector is expected to ensure that the Green Road Infrastructure guidelines become safeguards that prevent inappropriate financing of road projects that leads increasing deforestation.

Some impacts of road construction

From 2005 to 2015, 43% of the forest loss in the Amazon was located less than 1 km from a road, according to the characterization of main causes and agents of deforestation at the national level, reported by Ideam. This data aligns with studies developed by the Foundation for Conservation and Sustainable Development (FCDS), which affirms that 93% of the areas open to deforestation in Caquetá, Meta and Guaviare are less than 2 km apart from road access.

This problem is related to other synergetic dynamics in the territories. Although the construction of roads seeks to generate positive effects for social and economic development and connectivity, in many cases, their development promotes agricultural expansion and land grabbing in vast areas, including protected areas or indigenous territories. For Rodrigo Botero, director of FCDS, this happens because of the economic valorization that acquires these areas near road projects.

Furthermore, Mauricio Cabrera, Policy Advisor at WWF Colombia explains that the construction of roads may lead the way to other threats to ecosystems such as uncontrolled explotation of natural resources such as wood or minerals; in addition to provide access to new areas, accelerating the establishment of unplanned human settlements.

Thanks to the efforts of the Colombian Government, it is expected that these guidelines will be the new path towards the development of sustainable and resilient infrastructure in the country, that favors both commuties and ecological connectivity and avoids threats to the natural wealth of the Colombian forests.