In May 2014, Bosnia and Herzegovina experienced the worst floods since records began 120 years ago. Three months’ worth of rain fell in just three days, turning almost a third of the country into a muddy lake, with houses, roads and railways submerged.
The damage to the country’s infrastructure, particularly its roads, was enormous and a real threat to the economy. Bosnia and Herzegovina depends on road connections – 90 per cent of passenger journeys and 70 per cent of cargo transport takes place on roads. An efficient network that minimises journey times and offers reduced vehicle operating costs is essential for the country to improve its competitive position in the region and attract investment.
To overcome the flood damage, the EBRD supported Bosnia and Herzegovina by providing a €65 million loan to the state-owned company Roads of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The project included the repair of the road infrastructure and an upgrade of important primary sections. To improve the resilience of the road network to future floods and other extreme weather events, the project design specifically focused on climate change considerations.
Prior to project implementation, experts reviewed climate conditions over the last few decades. Based on UNFCCC‘s emission scenarios (A1B IPCC and A2 IPCC) and a historical baseline, they made climate projections for Bosnia-Herzegovina using two climate models, SINTEX-G and ECHAM5. The outcomes predicted a rise in temperatures and increased frequency of heat waves and droughts. Whilst annual precipitation rates are likely to decline, the probability of extreme rainfall events is also likely to increase. This poses major challenges to the country’s road network.
Localised heavy rainfall can flood the road surface and overload the drainage infrastructure. It can also increase surface flows, flows in watercourses and flooding which is likely to cause erosion of roads and embankments, as well as overwhelming of culverts and bridges. Heavy and especially prolonged rainfall can saturate weak soil slopes and increase the risk of landslides.
Considering these risks, the experts provided recommendations including the enhancement of drainage systems, deepening of bridge abutments, the installation of rock mattresses and other practices to reduce long-term risks and increase resilience of the investment.
The EBRD, with the EU and other partners, is helping improve roads and railways in Bosnia and Herzegovina – to the benefit of businesses and Bosnia’s citizens, too.
The EBRD’s engagement in improving the climate resilience of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s road network continues. Work on the ground will start this year and the Bank will use funds from the Central European Initiative to support Bosnia-Herzegovina in establishing an institutional framework and introducing international best practice on identifying and managing climate risks to the country’s road network with support from experts from the Swedish Road Agency.
Many countries in the Western Balkans are experiencing similar problems as climate change is a growing risk to their road networks which their economies rely on heavily. The EBRD is therefore planning to extend its efforts to other countries in the region by assessing the vulnerabilities of their road networks and identifying investments that could mitigate the associated risks.