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11 most challenging infra projects in the world

August 28, 2013 08:41 IST

Image: Metro trains pass through a residential area during its first official safety trial run.
Photographs: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

Listed here are some of the biggest and most challenging projects that include China’s urbanisation drive and Japan's plan to invest $100 billion in infrastructure over the next 15 months.

When completed, these ambitious infrastructure projects would change cities and some may change nations.

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11 most challenging infra projects in the world

Image: Britain's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (R) talks with Brazilian former soccer player Carlos Alberto Torres during a visit at the Maracana Stadium, undergoing renovations for the 2014 World Cup, in Rio de Janeiro.
Photographs: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters

Brazil prepares to host the world

Rank: 11

Brazil is struggling to upgrade its roads, airports, public transport, power systems and facilities, and to build new venues for next year’s World Cup as well as the 2016 Olympics.

Such a massive overhaul will require $100 billion investment per year for the next five years, and numerous setbacks have observers worried that the country will not be prepared to manage the massive influx of visitors.

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11 most challenging infra projects in the world

Image: Metro trains pass through a residential area during its first official safety trial run in Mumbai.
Photographs: Danish Siddiqui/Rediff

Mumbai's metro train line

Rank: 10

Mumbai’s first 11.4 km metro line is three years behind schedule, reportedly due to engineering difficulties, but will be operational up to the airport in September and fully-operational by the end of December.

The route, which currently takes 90 minutes by road, will be covered in just 20 minutes - providing badly needed relief to Mumbai commuters.

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11 most challenging infra projects in the world

Image: Sewer inspectors, known as flushers, demonstrate looking for damage and leaks in the sewerage system during a media facility, London.
Photographs: Luke MacGregor/Reuters

London sewer system

Rank: 9

After heavy rainfall, raw sewage gushes into the River Thames from a network of dank sewers beneath the streets of London.

A Victorian-era problem that has never been fixed, the tunnels underscore Britain's infrastructure backlog.

The need for a new London sewer was identified as early as 1989, but privatized utility Thames Water lacked government funding and had more pressing priorities, like cleaner drinking water.

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11 most challenging infra projects in the world

Image: Residents walk at proposed site of the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia (LAPSSET) project during its inauguration ceremony in Lamu.
Photographs: Joseph Okanga/Rediff

Kenya's LAPSETT

Rank: 8

Kenya’s LAPSETT project (Lamu Port and Lamu Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor) was intended to construct a new port, a railway line, a new two-lane highway network, a crude oil pipeline, an oil refinery, and three resort cities.

The project has been estimated at $23 billion, and has been fraught with problems, including backlash from local communities over environmental and social concerns.

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11 most challenging infra projects in the world

Image: Pedestrians walk across a zebra crossing in Tokyo.
Photographs: Eddie Keogh/Reuters

Ambitious investment in Japan

Rank: 7

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe aims to spend $100 billion on infrastructure in the next 15 months to help the economy.

But Japan already has 1.2 million km of roads, 250 bullet trains and 98 airports, leading critics to label new projects unnecessary.

“We cannot simply continue to build roads and infrastructure the way we used to at a time when the population is aging and shrinking," says Takayoshi Igarashi, public policy professor at Hosei University.

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11 most challenging infra projects in the world

Image: Vehicles drive past the construction site for a new highway in the business district in Jakarta.
Photographs: Beawiharta/Reuters

Indonesia's infrastructure woes

Rank: 6

Indonesia is seeking to build $9 billion worth of water, road, air and seaport projects, but has repeatedly run into problems securing investors; The Financial Times recently cited poor planning, land acquisition problems and lack of coordination as hampering the country’s ambitious infrastructure development plans.

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11 most challenging infra projects in the world

Image: A UN truck overturns while a convoy makes its way to Gonaives after floodwaters covered Haiti's national highway.
Photographs: Daniel Morel/Reuters

Haiti's unfinished highway

Rank: 5

The 56-mile road project was intended to connect the port city of Les Cayes with Jeremie, a city in one of Haiti's most neglected regions, and required the resurfacing of a pot-holed road that passes between narrow mountain ranges and fords a flood-prone river.

The unfinished road has become a symbol of how efforts to improve Haiti's infrastructure have run up against the country's land laws.

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11 most challenging infra projects in the world

Image: Construction work is seen at a field of solar panels in southern England.
Photographs: Reuters

Renewables investment in Europe

Rank: 4

Renewable energy production and infrastructure are gaining investor appeal as they become less dependent on government support in more European markets.

Allianz, Europe's biggest insurer, has been investing billions of euros of policyholder funds in renewable energy, with executives citing the viability of long-term cash flows.

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11 most challenging infra projects in the world

Image: A skytrain passes over vehicles on the road in Bangkok.
Photographs: Kerek Wongsa/Reuters

Bangkok BTS Skytrain

Rank: 3

In April, a fund controlled by the BTS Group, the rail system’s operator, raised $2.13 billion in the largest initial public offering ever by a Thai company.

Governments across Southeast Asia are expanding public works as a way to sustain growth, and rely heavily on foreign investment.

The Thai government incentivises this via 10-year tax breaks to investments by individuals in infrastructure funds.

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11 most challenging infra projects in the world

Image: An aerial view of Baghdad Railway station, where passenger commuter coaches and liquified petroleum gas tankers are parked, as seen from a U.S. military helicopter flying over central Baghdad.
Photographs: Erik de Castro/Reuters

Baghdad's 100-year-old railways

Rank: 2

Iraq's infrastructure is dilapidated after decades of war, sanctions and economic decline. In a country where piles of rubble and incomplete buildings are commonplace, almost every sector needs investment, including electricity and the sewage system.

However, the country is laying plans to rebuild its Ottoman Empire-era railways and become a transit hub for goods from Asia to the Middle East.

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11 most challenging infra projects in the world

Image: A general view of buildings is seen near the Xiangjiang River in Changsha, Hunan province.
Photographs: Reuters

The urbanisation of China

Rank: 1

China aims to spend $6 trillion on infrastructure as a projected 400 million people become urban residents over the next decade.

Ironically, the country is systematically razing cheap housing stock for the very people expected to fuel the urban migration - without providing sufficient replacement units.

The cleared land is then sold to developers who often build expensive apartment buildings.

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Tags: China