The Dawei Road project: An international cooperation of IENE on sustainable planning of large linear infrastructure transboundary project in a Biodiversity Hotspot of Southeast Asia

At the IENE 2014 International Conference in Malmö, Sweden, a team of government officials of Myanmar and Thailand and staff of WWF Myanmar and WWF Thailand learned about road ecology, understood the challenges that both countries face in their different stages of infrastructure development and network with various green infrastructure experts. After a meeting with the IENE Steering Committee a project was set up by WWF, IENE and the Austrian Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology with two purposes:

a)  To organize a systematic exchange of knowledge and experiences on Green Linear Transport Infrastructure in national-ministerial, regional and local-social level.

b) To evaluate the environmental impact on habitat fragmentation of the alignment of the trans-boundary high speed motorway between Bangkok in Thailand and Dawei in Myanmar and to propose a framework of recommendations for an appropriate design of the alignment.

An IENE team visited the two countries in February 2015 and participated in the international GEGG Forum in Myanmar, meetings and special technical workshops as well as in special field visits on the planned motorway alignment spots as well as in important protected areas and National Parks in Thailand. Aiming to exchange knowledge and experiences from Europe, the IENE team, in cooperation with WWF, established a framework of presentations which covered the demands of important topics on sustainable linear infrastructure development as:

  1. The environmental strategy and policy in the European Union.
  2. The legal framework with the appropriate legal tools implemented in Europe.
  3. Introduction of the negative impacts on the environment in case of inappropriate design and construction of a road.
  4. Introduction of the basic principles in appropriate design and how to avoid, mitigate or compensate the environmental impacts.
  5. Sharing best practices ranged from trans-boundary agreements to environmentally friendly road designing.
  6. Sharing best practices from green transport infrastructure development.
  7. Introduction of basic principles of ecosystem services and the values of roadless and low traffic areas.

From the experience gained during the trip, eight general recommendations were made for the countries in the Greater Mekong Region that can be evaluated as basic Green Transport Infrastructure Principles for developing countries. Additionally, based on the field trip that took place on Thai side, seventeen specific recommendations were focused on concrete topics adapted to local mitigation needs.

The overall project “Planning and Applying Mitigating Measures to Green Transport Infrastructure” in Myanmar and Thailand is a pioneer step for the development of IENE cooperation in an international level and WWF has made that achievement possible. Estimating the results of the project according to the working team presences in Myanmar and Thailand and the fruitful cooperation with WWF colleagues, IENE is sure that the lessons that were transferred to the Greater Mekong Region from Europe will be a start for the development of Green Policy in the transport infrastructure sector in Asia. The overall results can be evaluated and used as a first step toward the development of a framework of Global Green Transport Infrastructure Principles

Road ecology, linear infrastructure, nature fragmentation, international cooperation, biodiversity.