How Utility Infrastructure Can Affect Landscape Change

Written by Mariam Bakhtidze, Mzia Ghviniashvili & Brida Jennifer Monn, a collaboration between students of the Tbilisi State University and the University of Zurich

We're going to talk about why we chose this subject, why it's important and where the problem lies. As examples, we will use Georgia's mountainous areas and Switzerland.

To illustrate the Georgian case, human activities can widely affect the landscape and change it by using utility infrastructure. This might be necessary and effective but sometimes, as in our example, it can also be aesthetically unattractive or, even worse, dangerous (Arya 2022).

Figure 1: Overland utility infrastructure in Tbilisi (Mariam Bakhtidze, 2023).

Many Georgian people or tourists might have seen these pipelines blocking the view, but we've never thought about how they could be dangerous, for example, cause of car accidents, as they are mostly installed on sidewalks.

However, as we know, gas pipes that go inside homes are commonly buried underground. If the soil isn't good enough for the pipes, they are wrapped in plastic to protect them from damage and prevent gas leaks into the ground. If we consider the example of Switzerland, it should be noted that there is no such a problem like this (Gaznat n.d.). 

"In its gaseous state, natural gas is transported from other countries in thick steel pipes which may be as large as 1.4 meters in diameter. Gas pipelines are buried at a depth of at least 1 meter (underground gas pipelines) or immersed (undersea pipelines). They are insulated on the outside by a layer of polyethylene. A particularly effective technique known as cathodic protection is used to ensure that buried metallic structures do not corrode." (Gaznat n.d.)

In Switzerland gas pipelines are normally underground and only visible through markers at the surface (Gaznat n.d.). Renewable energy is the most landscape changing utility infrastructure in Switzerland. As we want to rely more on it, new constructions are necessary. The placing of photovoltaics, wind turbines and hydropower installations are recently discussed examples. The amount of infrastructure needed is immense. However, the acceptance for new constructions in nature is small as even the high-voltage power lines are seen as unattractive view blockings (Salak et al. 2022).

"Our results show, that society acknowledges the energy system change by accepting a certain degree of REI [renewable energy infrastructure] in almost all landscapes presented. However, the amounts of REI that are accepted in the survey show that society is not yet aware of the giant dimension of transformation needed (number of infrastructures)." (Salak et al. 2022)

Besides the settlement areas public growth also demands for new transportation infrastructure. This would afford new tracks and pathways for public transportation and more sealed areas for roads. On the other hand, there are goals to reduce noise and protect climate and nature (FOEN 2022).

When we compare Georgia and Switzerland, we remark some similarities: utility Infrastructure is important but has an impact on landscape. Also, there are some constructions that block beautiful views. However, there are some huge differences between the two countries: the focus and main goals regarding the building of utility infrastructure.


Literature:

Arya, A.K. (2022). A critical review on optimization parameters and techniques for gas pipeline operation profitability. Retrieved from: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13202-022-01490-5 (Accessed 26.11.23).

FOEN. (2022). Landscape: In brief. Retrieved from: https://www.bafu.admin.ch/bafu/en/home/topics/landscape/in-brief.html (Accessed 26.11.23).

Gaznat. (n.d.). Natural Gas Transportation Services. Retrieved from https://www.gaznat.ch/en-41-transportation.html (Accessed 26.11.23).

Salak, B., Kienast, F., Olschewski, R., Spielhofer, R., Wissen Hayek, U., Grêt-Regamey, A. and Hunziker, M. (2022). Impact on the perceived landscape quality trough renewable energy infrastructure. A discrete choice experiment in the context of the Swiss energy transition. Renewable Energy, 193, 299-308. 

SOCARGAS. (n.d.). Gas Distribution in Georgia. Retrieved from: https://www.socargas.ge/ge/gas-distribution (Accessed 26.11.23).

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