Megaprojects


A megaproject happening under Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan, New York, USA
Photo by Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York via Wikimedia Commons

Complex megaprojects can improve life for many people. But they can also have big problems. Liz Waid and Colin Lowther talk about the positives and negatives of Megaprojects.

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Transcript


Voice 1  

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2  

And I’m Colin Lowther. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1  

In 2013, the largest drill in the world started working. This drill created very large holes through the earth. The drill was almost 100 metres long. It made holes 17 meters wide. It cost 80 million dollars to build.

Voice 2  

Its first job was to dig a hole for an underground road in Seattle, Washington, USA. The job was supposed to take two and a half years. But after only 300 metres, the drill broke. Now it was deep under the ground and needed to be fixed. It took two years to fix the drill. It took another two years to finish the original job. This large drill was supposed to make the work fast and easy. Instead it took extra time and money to repair!

Voice 1  

There are many large projects like this drill and the underground road it was designed to create. They are called megaprojects. Sometimes they are successful and amazing. Sometimes they break and fall to pieces. Today’s Spotlight is on megaprojects.

Voice 2  

Megaprojects are not like other projects. Building a shopping center is a big project. But it is not a megaproject. Megaprojects are much more complex. Megaprojects include things like bridges, cultural centers, railway systems, roads, dams, airports, or the international space station. According to the Project Management Institute, there are a few things that make a project a megaproject. Megaprojects are large, complex projects. They usually cost one billion dollars US or more. They take many years to develop and build. They involve many different public and private people and groups. They can often change society and affect millions of people.

Voice 1  

There are several different kinds of megaproject. Ways of travel are the first kind of megaproject. People need to be able to move around a country. Sometimes this means traveling over large distances. In Japan, a high-speed train connects Tokyo and Nagoya. This train moves at over 500 kilometers per hour. And the train cost over 80 billion US dollars.

Voice 2  

The second kind of megaproject is about creating power. Countries and businesses spend billions of dollars and many years building power stations. In China, the Three Gorges Dam cost 59 billion US dollars. The Kathmui Solar Power Project in India covers over six square kilometers.

Voice 1  

The third kind of megaproject is airplanes. When a company or government builds a new airplane it can cost millions of dollars. When they build a new military airplane, it can cost billions of dollars. A space shuttle or space station can cost many billions of dollars.

Voice 2  

The next kind of megaproject is an event. When a country hosts the Olympic Games it can cost between ten and 50 billion dollars. When Russia hosted the 2018 FIFA World Cup they spent over 14 billion dollars. They built stadiums, hotels, roads, and improve public transportation. Events like the Olympics can make a lot of money. But some people think that the income from these events is not enough. They say the cost of preparing for them is too high.

Voice 1  

Most megaprojects do bring good things to a city or country. Megaprojects provide people with clean water, safe roads, and enough power. But some megaprojects are necessary for sad reasons. The final kind of megaproject is cleaning up after a disaster like a flood, tsunami, or nuclear accident.

Voice 2  

In Hanford, Washington, in the United States, people have been carefully working to clean up an old nuclear power plant. People have worked on this since 1989. The work is still not complete. It will cost another 100 billion dollars to finish the work. This is the normal cost of cleaning up an old nuclear power plant. The cost of cleaning up after a nuclear disaster is much more. Cleaning up after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan will total around 180 billion dollars.

Voice 1  

These kinds of large, clean-up projects are necessary and helpful after a disaster. But megaprojects can sometimes be the cause of problems as well. Megaprojects do not always work as planned. Like the world’s largest drill, they can break. When something goes wrong with a megaproject they can quickly cost more than expected. When a project begins with a cost of a billion dollars, everything is bigger. People count megaprojects as a success if they only go over their estimated cost by one percent. But, one percent of one billion is ten million dollars! Road projects often go over by 20 percent. Rail projects go over estimated cost by 44 percent. And bridges and tunnels usually go over by 51 percent.

Voice 2  

Another problem is that megaprojects can hurt individual people or communities. New roads, trains, or buildings can be good for cities. However, they can negatively affect individual people or families. People can be forced to move because a road will replace their home. Megaprojects can also destroy the natural places where animals live. But most people accept some negative effects for a few people or animals. They think it is worth it for a project that will help so many more people.

Voice 1  

Megaprojects are very complex. When they go well they can improve life for many people. But sometimes they go poorly. Then they cost billions of government dollars and help only a few people. It is very important to get a megaproject right. Nicklas Garemo works for McKinsey & Company. He helps other companies understand how to work better. He wrote about megaprojects for the company website:

Voice 3  

“The world needs megaprojects to provide the economic and social goods that billions of people lack, and to create the economic growth that will pay for them. But a bad megaproject has effects that go well beyond one bridge, tunnel, or sewage system. Getting it right, or at least better, is good for everyone.”

Voice 2  

Do you think that megaprojects are worth their cost and risks? Tell us what you think. You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at radio@radioenglish.net. You can also comment on Facebook at Facebook.com/spotlightradio.

Voice 1  

The writer of this program was Adam Navis. The producer was Bruce Gulland. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘Megaprojects’.

Voice 2  

Look for our free official app in the Google Play Store and in iTunes. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

What is the biggest thing your city has ever built? A dam? A bridge? A power plant?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
Honneur
said on September 19, 2018

Brazil developed two megaprojects almost simultaneously. The World Cup in 2014 and the 2016 Summer Olympics Games. In both events were spent billions and billions of dollars, much of which was stolen by the Workers’ Party (PT), which held the Brazilian government and took advantage of, by means of corruption, to accumulate a great fortune and to enrich its leaders. Several works are still unfinished and the damage done to the population is incalculable. Even the president today is in jail, sentenced to twelve years in prison for passive corruption and money laundering. He is being tried in eight other cases for the same charges in other works.  I think countries should measure well the costs and benefits of running a mega project before they start to undertake them ...

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on September 26, 2018

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
To: spotlight programme
Subject: to answer to the questions below
Date: Wednesday 26, September 2018
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Liz Waid, Adam Navis, Colin Lowther, and Bruce Gulland:

First, I want to thank you for bringing us that important theme.
Questions:
Question 1 - What is the biggest thing your city has ever built? A dam? A bridge? A power plant?
My loved country has built these and much more to improve the life of my fellowcountrymen.
So, some of the Megaprojects have helped so much our lives.
However, the first Megaproject of the Brazil was a big bridge in which is called Ponte Maurício de Nassau and It is located in Recife city Pernambuco where I was born.
The bridge was nomed by Mauricio de Nassau because Maurício de Nassau was the Governor of Pernambuco when that big Megaproject was built.  Maurício de Nassau was a Ductch Price.
So, that important and beautiful bridge interconnects the Recife city and Santo Antônio neighbourhood.
That bridge was started its building in 1630 and it was inaugurated on February 28, 1644. However, that important Megaproject has been repaired during some years. So, 1642/ 1861. 1861/1917. And 1917 was the last time in which that important bridge needed a repair on it.
Therefore, the current Ponte de Maurício de Nassau is an important Megaproject in which that Dear Price built with his team in my loved city Recife Pernambuco Brazil. Thank you very much dear Price Maurício de Nassau and Pernambuco team.
Thank you very much.

Your regards,
Severino Ramos
From Brazil

Avatar Spotlight
soulaiman
said on October 14, 2018

in fact, the mega-project are useful for the countries and for their population, as example in my country Morocco we lunched one of the world’s largest solar energy projects, it’s costing an estimated 9$ billion, the aim goal of the project is to create 2000 megawatts of solar generation capacity by the year 2020, this project will provide 38% of Morocco’s annual electricity generation.