Environmental degradation from high-speed roads

Other Names:
Environmental impacts of highway development

High-speed roads are capable of causing considerable damage, especially when they are badly placed. They divide neighbourhoods; damage or obliterate homes and farms; cut off access to the countryside; and, above all, create excessive noise for bordering communities.


In 1993, the UK Department of Transport announced its intention to spend an estimated £20 billion in the following 15 years of highway reconstruction around the country, which would include the widening of thousands of miles of motorway to accommodate the suggested doubling of road traffic within the next 35 years. One of the densest concentrations of highways in the world has been planned for the Greater Manchester area. The Department, despite claims by environmentalists that new roads will triple the amount of pollution in rural areas by the year 2025, maintained their programme would cut down on traffic congestion and create approximately 30,000 new jobs in the construction industry. Environmentalists fear the UK programme will ensure the destruction of up to 160 Sites of Special Scientific Interest and the pollution of an approximate 800 ancient monuments. One kilometre of new road requires up to 120,000 tonnes of rock and gravel, which may necessitate the exploitation of new quarry sites around the UK.

The Lagonaki-Dagomys road construction project in the Russian North-West Caucasus, across the Lagonaki plateau and Caucasian Biosphere Reserve highland area, comes at just the same time as UNESCO is considering placing the North Caucasus (North -East Black Sea region) on the World Heritage list. The area planned for nomination includes the Sochi National Park and the Caucasus Biosphere reserve (situated mostly in Krasnodar region and Adugeya republic). The road construction project will involve the extensive use of heavy explosives to make the road across the mountains, plus the "regular" construction works and traffic of construction machinery required in such projects. The proposed area is habitat for more than six thousand animal and plant species, many of them endemic (unique) to the region. Local government officials insist the highway construction will attract traffic flow, and hence economic development to the republic and the region. The official opinion is that benefits from the traffic outweigh the benefits of having an internationally protected nature area.

Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 1: No PovertyGOAL 2: Zero HungerGOAL 3: Good Health and Well-beingGOAL 4: Quality EducationGOAL 5: Gender EqualityGOAL 6: Clean Water and SanitationGOAL 7: Affordable and Clean EnergyGOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic GrowthGOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and InfrastructureGOAL 10: Reduced InequalityGOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and CommunitiesGOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and ProductionGOAL 13: Climate ActionGOAL 14: Life Below WaterGOAL 15: Life on LandGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong InstitutionsGOAL 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal
Problem Type:
D: Detailed problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST