Railways and Environment: the Case of China

June 5, 2012

BEIJING, June 5, 2012 – Experience demonstrates that environmental impacts can be effectively mitigated if appropriate measures are taken, says a new World Bank paper which reviews environmental practices employed in China’s railway development.

The paper titled China: The Environmental Challenge of Railway Development draws on almost 30 years of World Bank’s involvement in railway development in China to attempt to answer this question. 

The paper notes that the strengthening regulatory and institutional framework in China has provided a foundation for better environmental practices.  Today environmental protection is integrated throughout the project cycle: during network planning, prefeasibility analysis, feasibility analysis, preliminary design, construction, and operation.

The paper identifies a number of key measures including:  

  • Avoiding sensitive sites such as nature reserves, water resources protection areas and cultural relics sites through alternative analysis;
  • Using sound engineering schemes such as tunnel-bridge-tunnel schemes;
  • Incorporating comprehensive mitigation measures;
  • Proper spoils disposal and restoration;
  • Managing the construction site so as to mitigate temporary construction impact such as noise, vibration and soil erosion;
  • Protecting physical cultural resources;
  • Avoiding community severance through project designing and public consultation; and
  • Enhancing environmental supervision and enforcement.

“In many ways, the railway sector in China has been a pioneer in integrating environmental impact analysis and management into infrastructure projects,” said Ning Yang, World Bank’s environmental specialist and a co-author of the paper.  “At the same time, efforts should continue in addressing cumulative impacts, improving the quality of public consultation and the integration of social mitigation measures with those meant to protect the environment.” 

The paper is the sixth of a series of papers on transport topics produced by the World Bank in Beijing.

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