Infrastructure is extremely important in human society. Throughout history, humans have progressively developed and created more infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, and dams.  However, people might not always think what of environmental effects are caused from human development.   We might not think that the massive cities and highway systems used to be forests or plains. While human infrastructure and development evidently cannot entirely cease, it could be implemented in a more environmentally-friendly way.

Human infrastructure can often hurt natural habitats and impact biodiversity.  For instance, road development can be very damaging to the environment.  Roads can fragment habitats or disrupt migration patterns of species. Additionally, animals can often get hit and killed by drivers.  Similarly, dams can fragment rivers and be obtrusive to the environment, to some extent.  While not all are that devastating, some can increase pollution, flood habitats, or block sediment flow.  Additionally, some dams can hinder migration of certain aquatic animals.  For instance, salmon typically travel upstream to reproduce, but dams can sometimes block migration.  Human water systems (like irrigation) can also negatively impact the environment. This can lead to droughts and threaten wetlands and biodiversity.

While infrastructure is necessary to human society, people need to find a better way of making infrastructure a bit more ecologically friendly.  One approach is to plan and design infrastructure to reduce the ecological impact.  A rather new practice is to create “green bridges” over certain highways for animals to travel or migrate over.  Doing so helps reduce the fragmentation effect that major highway systems can cause.  A similar practice for dams and fish is also possible.  To make dams less disruptive to these migratory fish, humans can add methods to allow fish to swim upstream past a dam.  One specific method is a “fish ladder,” which may be a practice that needs further introduced to rivers with migratory fish.

                Another approach is to protect targeted areas from any infrastructural development all together.  For instance, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) helps identify areas that are sensitive which need protection from activities such as mining or harvesting oil.  They then work with governments and industries to keep the fragile areas safe from development.  A potential solution to the problem is that more organizations could fight for similar protections from infrastructure and help more areas.  Alternatively, the role could be put in the hands of governments and national alliances to create and enforce respective legislature.  Laws could be passed that protect certain areas of ecosystems from things like major roadway construction projects.

                An additional related approach is a “mitigation approach”.  Essentially, if humans have to destroy a part of a forest or some wetlands to build infrastructure, they would be required to “replant” an equivalent to maintain sustainability.  While this approach is mostly theoretical, it serves as a way that makes construction have to accommodate for what they destroy.  A downside of this approach is that “manmade” wetlands can often be very poor in biodiversity and ecological health, as a manmade natural system would be difficult to produce.

As human population continues to grow, we will need more and more infrastructure.  However, infrastructure can be damaging to the environment, as it can fragment habitats or cause pollution.  Evidently, society needs to seek potential solutions to build in an ecologically-friendly manner.  Infrastructure could be planned, designed, and built to provide alternate migratory paths such as “green bridges” or “fish ladders”.  Alternatively, government and environmental organizations could identify and protect critical and fragile environments from infrastructural development all together.  One more potential action is to make constructors “mitigate” any destroyed habitats by replacing them with a new one.

“Infrastructure.” World Wildlife Fund, n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2016.



Leave a Reply