Sustainable roads on the Galápagos Islands

11 September 2019

Holcim Ecuador overcame a series of logistical and sustainability challenges to improve roads on the remote Galápagos Islands. The end result meets the highest environmental standards, benefitting both residents and tourists. The project is the perfect interplay between innovation, performance and sustainability.


A carefully run project in a protected area 

With a population of about 25,000 people, the Galápagos Islands are best known for their national parks and marine reserves. The Galápagos marine iguana, the Galápagos tortoise and the Galápagos penguin have all contributed to the fame of these small islands. The islands have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and belong to Ecuador, 926 km (500 nautical miles) west of its Pacific coast.

In 2018, Holcim Ecuador won a contract for a road stabilization project on the islands of Santa Cruz, San Cristobal and Isabela. The job was to stabilize 41 kilometers of dirt road while also meeting the highest environmental standards required of any company willing to perform a construction job based on the concern of the government and inhabitants regarding the unique natural flora and fauna of the site. Until that point, the local population had relied on small dirt roads which were riddled with potholes and could be practically impassable during poor weather. An additional 180,000 tourists visited the islands every year, adding stress to the already inadequate roads.

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Further challenges

To make things even more challenging, the project had to be carried out over a three-month period. Local materials needed to be incorporated as much as possible and the material shipped from the mainland had to be protected from humidity using special foils for the six-day journey. In the end, 115,000 bags of special Holcim Road Binder cement were shipped from Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city and main port, as well as all the equipment needed to perform the job, such as state-of-the-art soil stabilizer machines.


Successful solutions

Holcim Ecuador ultimately stabilized one kilometer of road per day with an average width of 5.6 meters, relying on unique cement developed for such occasions -- Holcim Base Road -- mixed with material sourced from the islands. The solution fulfilled all the environmental and durability requirements of the Governing Council. Each one of the cement bags was returned to the mainland after use.

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The stabilization project has significantly benefited both tourists and residents in their daily lives. “It used to take 40 minutes to travel from the town to the volcano,” said Luis Paredes, a guide at the national park. “Now it takes 20 to 25 minutes. This helps us to be more efficient and to save maintenance costs to our vehicles,” Paredes continues. ”The new road had to deal with a lot of water after this winter, but the quality is still the same as day one.”

The successful project has opened new doors for Holcim Ecuador. Other local governments have asked for similar solutions that use eco-friendly road stabilization cement combined with the necessary equipment to carry out the project. The 21-kilometer road maintenance project in Santa Elena is one such example where we have earned a Carbon Footprint certification. In the words of the Ecuadorian Environment Minister, it’s the first Carbon Neutral Footprint route in the country. Additional projects are planned in Cotopaxi, Chimborazo, Guayas and other provinces.

Watch to find out more about the project: