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Transport Infrastructure Impacts
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Transport infrastructure impacts are difficult to quantify because impacts arise from roads, railroads, and complex regional development schemes. Almost all human-induced environmental impacts are caused and/or exacerbated by infrastructure projects. National governments and international institutions have been planning the development of international transportation corridors and related industrial facilities throughout the Amur-Heilong River basin . By 2005 some large projects were implemented and these raised new, formidable challenges to environmental security in the region. Simultaneous with these regional developments, each of the basin countries accelerated development of domestic transport networks and this has provided access for exploitation of unspoiled areas. The Amur-Heilong Rive basin has suffered from a lack of regional strategic planning for and assessment of transport developments. Situation varies in different countries

Road densities in China are several times greater than in Russia or Mongolia and the related problems are more acute. Road density in districts neighboring Russia varies from 27-200 km/1000 square km. The rapid urban, industrial and agricultural development in Northeast China in recent years necessitated highway construction, causing dramatic losses of wetlands. China 's decision in 1994 that automobiles would be one of four growth industries dictated that more vehicles would need more roads and this would cause conversion of wildlands and farmlands to pavement

Even with a shrinking population in the Russian Far East, the network of settlements and roads continues to grow. The number of paved roads is still relatively low – an average of 4.1 km of paved roads per 1,000 square kilometer in the RFE, compared to 23.7 km for all of Russia.

Mongolia 's human population density is one of the lowest in the world and roads are few. Roads occupy about 0.2 percent of the Mongolian portion of the basin but still cause considerable environmental impacts. Paradoxically, absence of roads in steppe and desert areas also causes grassland degradation and increases erosion of fragile soils. The interprovincial Ondorhaan-Choibalsan road has multiple tracks and could reach up to one kilometer in width in areas with easily degradable soils. Off-road "multi-tracking" caused degradation of 300,000 hectares of steppe in Mongolia.

See map of GLOBIO assesment to find how human impacts in the region are closely linked to transportation networks (MAP#1013)


Examples of transportation impacts: yesterday, today and tomorrow

1896 - Russia, China

Large scale industrial and agricultural development in the Amur-Heilong River basin started with the agreement between Qing Dynasty China and the Russian Empire on construction of the East-China Railroad in 1896. The railway crossed the entire basin from west to east. This is arguably the basin's most significant infrastructure project in terms of cumulative impacts on the environment. Many patterns of development and directions of environmental impact were determined by this railway that opened resources of the basin for large scale international trade and accelerated exploitation. All further large development projects were influenced by this railway.


1902-1990 - Russia

The most severe historic impacts on ecosystems of the Far East and Siberia resulted from the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway (completed in 1916) and the Baikal-Amur Railway (1970s-1990s, never fully completed). Both were planned to facilitate trade, resource-extraction, and settlement of remote areas of the Amur-Heilong Basin . The Trans-Siberian Railway shaped development patterns, and thus its environmental costs can be viewed as inevitable. In contrast, the Baikal-Amur Railway exacted tremendous economic, social, and environmental costs during construction but has not as of yet facilitated sustainable development. It is hardly justifiable today, even from an economic perspective. Both railways severely fragmented Amur-Heilong ecosystems and profoundly affected the distribution and migration routes of many species. The railways facilitated many severe impacts including human-induced forest fires, creating a burned belt for 50-100 km along the railroads.


2000 - Mongolia

Construction of Ulaanbaatar-Zamyn Uud railway blocked the main route of Mongolian gazelle migrating to the western provinces. The herds located west of the railway stopped reproducing and distribution was severely limited.


2002 - China

The construction of National Highway 301 in Heilongjiang 's Zhalong National Nature Reserve fragmented wetlands of the Nen River into four sections, causing serious impacts to material and water exchange regimes and biodiversity. It also resulted in wetland degradation and loss of wetland functions. Most nature reserve managers view road improvements as enhancements to tourism revenue. Managers often pay little or no attention to long-term ecological impacts of roads on the protected area itself.


2003 - Mongolia

Controversial plans to develop a "Millenium Road" through Numrog Nature Reserve on the border of Dornod Province and Xinganmeng Prefecture of Inner Mongolia evoked criticism from Mongolian and international environmentalists when in August 2003 the Ministry of Nature and Environment (MNE) organized its first ever public hearing on an environmental impact assessment (EIA). An international agreement between Mongolia and China was used by the vice-governor of Dornod Province to justify the project even though the roadway lacked environmental or economic support.


2005 - China

The Inner Mongolia Highway and Trade Corridor Project (IMH) is designed to promote cross-border trade between China , Russia , and Mongolia and the World Bank has supported part of the project. The expressway dissected main core zone of Erka Nature Reserve near Zhalainuo'er town. This is an important floodplain wetland connecting Dalai Lake and Argun River Floodplain, and a known stop-over foraging site for Siberian Crane and other endangered birds. The EIA was carried out using World Bank procedures, but does not recognize this important impact and lacks suggestions for impact avoidance and mitigation.


200? - China-Russia

Bridges are being proposed to connect China with Russia across the Amur-Heilong River . At least four bridges are in design, with the Blagoveshensk-Heihe Bridge likely to be the first built and to have the most profound impact on trade in the region. An EIA of the bridge and associated highways identified serious threats to nesting habitats of Red-crowned Crane and other rare birds on the adjacent Amur-Heilong floodplain.


200? Russia

New railways are now planned as access routes to natural resources in remote areas. One example is the Elga Railway that will lead to high quality coal deposits in southeast Yakutia. It might also threaten fragile ecosystems in upper Zeya watershed by improving access for poachers, loggers, and gold-miners.


2000-200? - Mongolia-China-Russia-Koreas

Tumangan River Economic Development Area or TREDA would have been developed by five regional countries. The design called for a new port at the mouth of the Tumen River , and free economic zones in northeastern North Korea , the Yanbian Prefecture of China, and Khasansky District in southwestern Primorsky Province , with transportation routes all the way to Ulan Baatar.. North Korea implemented part of the project independently, creating a free economic zone and modernizing its port. China invested billions of dollars in the development of the Yanbian Prefecture , building a modern highway from Beijing to the border with Russia . Only in Russia did the project fail to materialize. A diagnostic environmental analysis of the project was carried out with funding from GEF-UNDP and shows that this biodiversity hotspot may be seriously affected by railway, power-line, sea-ports, and highway development.

Map collection: Transportation



Map collection: Environmental impacts of economic development


GLOBIO human impact assesment

Human footprint and ecoregions of Amur

Human footprint and protected areas coverage

Threats to biodiversity in Southern Russian Far East

Industrial Development in Songhua River Basin (ADB 2005)


Map collection: Land use and agriculture


Soil Degradation Severity

Abandoned cropland in Zeya Bureya Plains

Frequency of fires in tiger/leopard habitat in Southern Primorsky Province by WCS

Density of cropland in China in 2000 (by Liu 2005)

Cropland change in China in 1990-2000 (by Liu 2005)

Notheast China irrigation (by F.Lasserre)


Map collection: Forestry


Map collection: Oil & gas


Photo:Transportation infrastructure

Here was a wild grassland along Hailaer River floodplain, which 100 years ago was dissected by most influential infrastructure project- China Eastern Railroad. (Photo by E.Simonov)

Also look:

Land-use trends:

General trends in land-use

Recent changes in land-use in three countries



Amur Agriculture

Agricultural development in Northeast China

Agricultural development in Eastern Mongolia

Russian agriculture

Russian agricultural land and production in RFE-tables

Northeast Asia cooperation in agriculture

Environmental impacts of argiculture

Land degradation and desertification

Conversion of wildlands to farmland



Timber harvest in the Russian Far East

Salmon vs forestry

Major human-induced impacts on forest ecosystems of RFE (table)

Timber trade


Other land-use issues:


Nature tourism in the Amur/Heilong River Basin

Oil & gas Basin

Oil & gas impacts

Russian mining

Mongolian mining

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