Sustainability within the Asia-Pacific region is essential for its economic development. Many now feel that this can only be fully improved and maintained with a reliable transport system in place. There have been measures in place to develop this for some years.
More recently, UN ESCAP (United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific) organized a joint Ministerial Conference on Transport with Russia in 2016. The aim here was to help develop a new five-year regional action program for sustainable transport.
The hope is that by then, the networks will be better developed, more profitable and also more environmental. It is essential if poorer nations are to gain better access to the wealth, goods, and services to the region as a whole. It can provide links to investment opportunities, health care, education and much more.
For many, the primary focus here is the road network, and there are some big plans for development in this area.
The most important venture in recent years for the development of Asian transportation was the Asian Highway. This regional highway network came from the UN ESCAP in 1992 and led to the creation of 140,000km of the road in 32 countries.
It starts with the creation of active physical links between neighboring countries. It then increases with its reach into Europe, with connections to major networks. It has proved to be a vital link for developing nations regarding trade, travel and other ventures.
It has opened some of the poorer countries up to new opportunities and increased the sense of inclusion. In addition to this, some organizations are looking much further beyond those horizons. These ideas include the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity, Chinas One Belt and the Eurasian Economic Union.
It is all perfect for those that travel and trade by road. Others are keen to promote a multi-modal approach to sustainable development in travel.
Despite these benefits, there are some that see a further need for regional and multi-modal connectivity. It is the only option if nations are to transport, import and export through the region. Multi-modal here mean approaches to transportation that do not solely rely on the highways.
Railways, maritime development, and aviation are all vital too. It began with the Trans-Asian rail system, which should not be easily overlooked. A focus on highways and road transportation is detrimental for some reasons.
First, there is the concern over putting too much emphasis on roads and causing issues with traffic. Improvement in transport infrastructure is also required in the main cities. Many see congestion and need more traffic management.
Multi-modal sustainable development means the region can spread out in different ways. Also, aviation and maritime development could open the international doors a little wider. There are also concerns about road safety with this increase in traffic and highways. Road traffic accidents in Asia Pacific are responsible for annual deaths of 700,000, with an added economic cost of 5% of GDP. Increased road use in poorer, rural areas could be dangerous.
Finally, there is a need to ensure that developments comply with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The main issue here is emissions from the increased traffic on these new highways. Asia’s emissions from cars and other road-based transportation are now responsible for 23% of global aggregate emissions.
Figures suggest that this is now set to rise to 31% by 2030. There is a fine line to draw here between in a functional, beneficial road network and one that is sustainable and environmentally friendly. To meet the target of the Paris Agreement, the region needs to reduce emissions, not add to them.
There is a lot of work to do to find the best solution, but multi-modal has to be the way forward for Asia Pacific.
There is a lot to consider here when looking at the benefits and issues in developing Asia’s road networks in a sustainable, advantageous way. There is an apparent desire to see the ways strengthened, with greater infrastructure facilities and the potential for new cross-border operations.
It could have a terrible effect on carbon emissions and road safety. A wider projection over different areas of the network could expand the region’s potential in a cleaner, safer way.