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The roads of Latin America, very vulnerable to climate change

CAF - development bank of Latin America -, the Spanish Road Association (AEC) and the Ibero-American Road Institute (IVIA) develop a guide with a series of short, medium and long-term adaptation measures to prevent and mitigate the damages caused by the weather in the road networks of Latin America.

Most Latin American countries face complex institutional, technical, financial, political and social challenges to adapt their roads to climate, which puts at risk both the safety and sustainability of the region's road systems.

Faced with this situation, which is expected to be aggravated by the negative effects of climate change, CAF - the development bank of Latin America - has published a Good practice guide for adapting roads to climate, which proposes measures based on environmental management tools, planning and risk management caused by climate variability. 

The document, developed by the AEC and IVIA, contemplates both new construction roads and the road network in service, and proposes actions based on two pillars: strategic planning, which involves creating appropriate institutional, legal and social frameworks; and specific measures that include good engineering practices for the design and construction of more resilient infrastructures in the four fields considered strategic: geotechnics and slopes, hydrology and drainage, structures and pavements.

The publication also puts the alert on the fact that, in the current context, historical climate data are not sufficient for an adequate management of the infrastructure, so if the planning and design of roads continue to be carried out in accordance with the engineering practices in the Region, this could result in the impossibility of responding to future climate phenomena.

Heterogeneous situation between countries

Actions related to disaster risk management and climate mitigation and adaptation measures in the transport sector are gaining increasing attention; specifically in the road sector, some climate events have been identified in the Latin America and the Caribbean region in recent years that are impacting the useful life of the infrastructure. Thus, for example, El Niño and La Niña phenomena or tropical storms and hurricanes in Central America and the Caribbean area have caused significant damage to the roads of some countries (only in Colombia losses due to the 2010-2011 winter wave). they were at an 2% of GDP).

However, according to the guide, the current situation of the adaptation of road infrastructure to climate in Latin America and the Caribbean presents a certain heterogeneity among the countries that make it up. While some have begun to develop adaptation plans, others are in their very early stages, although there is widespread recognition of the need to act in this area in all states.

Multilateral entities are deploying ambitious programs to help adapt to climate variability and change, although the application to road infrastructures is relatively recent and existing experiences are limited. At national level, there is usually no efficient coordination between different competent authorities, and this is transferred to national and supranational relationships. The report points out that this will be one of the great challenges of the coming years, along with the transfer of information and the establishment of contacts in the Region.

CAF is incorporating into its knowledge agenda lines of work that include, on the one hand, the sustainability of the projects and, on the other, the efficiency of the investments aimed at providing greater resilience to the transport infrastructure. For this purpose, this Good practice guide for adapting roads to climate, a technical challenge for the Spanish Road Association and the Ibero-American Road Institute.

The document can be downloaded here and in the Open Knowledge Space, SCIOTECA, of CAF - development bank of Latin America:

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