The Adverse Impacts of Road Construction on the Environment

Road construction is essential for boosting development and economic growth within a society. Roads effectively move goods and people across considerable distances and are fundamental to the transport sector. There are several adverse impacts on the environment, however, which must be considered during the planning, construction and maintenance of roads. Environmental impacts of road construction are categorized as direct, indirect or cumulative.

  1. Direct Impacts

    • Direct impacts involve the effects of the physical presence of the road. Road construction requires direct utilization of land, possibly for environmental practices such as farming. Rivers and streams are also diverted during road construction. Roads affect wildlife populations, as according to the U.S. Humane Society and the Urban Wildlife Research Centre, an estimated one million wildlife animals are killed on U.S. highways each day, including endangered species such as the American crocodile and the Key deer.

    Indirect Impacts

    • Indirect or secondary impacts are more closely related to the construction process and often pose a more serious risk to the environment. They include issues such as land erosion and pollution from construction raw materials, which has knock-on effects on surface water quality. Another indirect impact is deforestation when roads are cut into forest areas to support easy logging transport and settler migration. Increased human activity in forests as a result of new roads also lead to animal poaching.

    Cumulative Impacts

    • Cumulative impacts involve a collective end result of direct and indirect impacts. For example, road construction impacts, including river diversion, deforestation and water and noise pollution, cause changes to wildlife habitats, which contribute to animal endangerment and even threaten extinction. Deforestation also causes increased temperatures due to a lack of vegetative cover, as well as a loss of plant species.

    Unpredictable Impacts

    • There are a few unpredictable yet possible environmental impacts of road construction. Some of these include roadside pollution by passing commuters, fires and road fatalities due to car accidents. All impacts need to be carefully assessed before a road is constructed in order to minimize their effects on both the environment and human population.

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