24th August 2015

4 incredibly ambitious infrastructure projects from the past and today

They don't build 'em like they used to... Or do they?

4 incredibly ambitious infrastructure projects from the past and today

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Throughout history, civilisation has been built on the foundations of solid infrastructure: the roads we’ve laid, the pipes we’ve installed and the tunnels we’ve bored. Working on infrastructure projects may not be the most glamorous of tasks, but it plays a huge part in the continuing growth of the global construction industry. Infrastructure contracts range hugely in value, from small repair jobs to international megaprojects that cost billions to complete. In today’s blog post, we put four incredible infrastructure projects under the magnifying glass. These projects have broken records, revolutionised travel, and even breathed life into previously parched regions.

Panama Canal (and expansion)

If you frequent the Integrity Software blog, you’ll have seen that we counted the Panama Canal as one of the deadliest construction projects in history, claiming almost 30,000 lives of labourers during its long and arduous construction in inhospitable tropical conditions. The 48 mile canal provided a convenient link between the Pacific and the Atlantic, with no need to take the lengthy and hazardous voyage around Cape Horn. At present, an expansion of the canal is underway. New locks are being installed in addition to widening and deepening the present channel to allow for larger ships with more cargo to pass through. The cost is estimated at $5.25 billion, although the project is expected to run over budget. The Panama Canal Authority are also looking ahead to another expansion projectthat might run to $17 billion if it gets the green light.

The Great Man-Made River Project

The largest aquifer in the world lies under the Sahara, covering parts of Egypt, Chad, Libya and Sudan. In the ‘80s, Libya began the Great Man-Made River Project, a scheme designed to tap into the aquifer and pump water to the country’s fast growing cities in the north of the country. The water is also used for irrigation projects that have transformed arid land into productive arable farms that appear as distinctive circles of green in the midst of the desert.  An astonishing 2.37 kmof water is removed from the aquifer each year. However, this water has not been naturally replenished since the ice age, and some experts believe that the aquifer could be depleted within 60 years. While this infrastructure may not be sustainable, it’s certainly impressive.

Beijing’s new international airport

China’s continuing economic boom needs to be matched by improved infrastructure if its impressive growth is to be maintained. Beijing’s new international airport is set to be completed by 2025, when it will support 100 million passengers per year and cover 2680 hectares. Phase 1 will be completed by autumn 2018, supporting 45 million passengers and helping to reduce the strain on the near-capacity Beijing Capital International Airport, the second busiest airport in the world. The country will also build a new 25 mile high speed railway line to link the airport to the Beijing South railway station. In total, the projects are estimated to cost over $11 billion. 

South-north water transfer project

Water is quickly becoming the most valuable resource in the world, therefore it is little surprise that the bulk of this list is comprised of projects that help in its transportation and distribution. In China, water availability and population density are generally mismatched: the wetter south of the country is home to a smaller proportion of its population, and the dry north is highly populated. The solution? A huge network of pipes, canals and pumps to transfer water from the Yangtze to Beijing, Tianjin, Shanxi, and dozens of other large cities in the north, thousands of miles away. The project, which consists of three separate ‘routes’ is not fully complete, but costs have already reached $79 billion.

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