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The Environmental Impact of Civil Conflict: The Deforestation Effect of Paramilitary Expansion In Colombia

Author

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  • Juan Fernando Vargas
  • Leopoldo Fergusson
  • Dario Romero

Abstract

Despite a growing body of literature on how environmental degradation can fuel civil war, the reverse effect, namely that of conflict on environmental outcomes, is relatively understudied. From a theoretical point of view this effect is ambiguous, with some forces pointing to pressures for environmental degradation and some pointing in the opposite direction. Hence, the overall effect of conflict on the environment is an empirical question. We study this relationship in the case of Colombia. We combine a detailed satellite-based longitudinal dataset on forest cover across municipalities over the period 1990-2010 with a comprehensive panel of conflict-related violent actions by paramilitary militias. We first provide evidence that paramilitary activity significantly reduces the share of forest cover in a panel specification that includes municipal and time fixed effects. Then we confirm these findings by taking advantage of a quasi-experiment that provides us with an exogenous source of variation for the expansion of the paramilitary. Using the distance to the region of Urabá, the epicenter of such expansion, we instrument paramilitary activity in each cross-section for which data on forest cover is available. As a falsification exercise, we show that the instrument ceases to be relevant after the paramilitaries largely demobilized following peace negotiations with the government. Further, after the demobilization the deforestation effect of the paramilitaries disappears. We explore a number of potential mechanisms that may explain the conflict-driven deforestation, and show evidence suggesting that paramilitary violence generates large outflows of people in order to secure areas for growing illegal crops, exploit mineral resources, and engage in extensive agriculture. In turn, these activities are associated with deforestation.

Suggested Citation

  • Juan Fernando Vargas & Leopoldo Fergusson & Dario Romero, 2014. "The Environmental Impact of Civil Conflict: The Deforestation Effect of Paramilitary Expansion In Colombia," Documentos de Trabajo 012158, Universidad del Rosario.
  • Handle: RePEc:col:000092:012158
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Juan F. Vargas, 2009. "Military Empowerment and Civilian Targeting in Civil War," HiCN Working Papers 56, Households in Conflict Network.
    2. Fearon, James D. & Laitin, David D., 2003. "Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 97(1), pages 75-90, February.
    3. Paul Collier & Anke Hoeffler, 2004. "Greed and grievance in civil war," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 56(4), pages 563-595, October.
    4. Patricia Justino, 2009. "The Impact of Armed Civil Conflict on Household Welfare and Policy Responses," HiCN Working Papers 61, Households in Conflict Network.
    5. Jorge Restrepo & Michael Spagat & Juan Vargas, 2004. "The Dynamics of the Columbian Civil Conflict: A New Dataset," Homo Oeconomicus, Institute of SocioEconomics, vol. 21, pages 396-429.
    6. Christopher Blattman & Edward Miguel, 2010. "Civil War," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 48(1), pages 3-57, March.
    7. Miguel, Edward & Roland, Gérard, 2011. "The long-run impact of bombing Vietnam," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(1), pages 1-15, September.
    8. Manuel Arellano & Stephen Bond, 1991. "Some Tests of Specification for Panel Data: Monte Carlo Evidence and an Application to Employment Equations," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(2), pages 277-297.
    9. Edward Miguel & Shanker Satyanath & Ernest Sergenti, 2004. "Economic Shocks and Civil Conflict: An Instrumental Variables Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(4), pages 725-753, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Canavire-Bacarreza, Gustavo & Diaz-Gutierrez, Julian Eduardo & Hanauer, Merlin M., 2018. "Unintended consequences of conservation: Estimating the impact of protected areas on violence in Colombia," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 89(C), pages 46-70.
    2. Malerba, Daniele, 2020. "Poverty alleviation and local environmental degradation: An empirical analysis in Colombia," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 127(C).
    3. Prem, Mounu & Saavedra, Santiago & Vargas, Juan F., 2020. "End-of-conflict deforestation: Evidence from Colombia’s peace agreement," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 129(C).
    4. Banerjee, Onil & Cicowiez, Martin & Vargas, Renato & Obst, Carl & Cala, Javier Rojas & Alvarez-Espinosa, Andrés Camilo & Melo, Sioux & Riveros, Leidy & Romero, Germán & Meneses, Diego Sáenz, 2021. "Gross domestic product alone provides misleading policy guidance for post-conflict land use trajectories in Colombia," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 182(C).
    5. GOMADO, Kwamivi Mawuli, 2018. "Diversité ethnique et déforestation dans les pays en développement: identification des principaux canaux [Ethnic diversity and deforestation in developing countries: identifying the transmission ch," MPRA Paper 89380, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Tranchant, Jean-Pierre & Justino, Patricia & Müller, Cathérine, 2020. "Political violence, adverse shocks and child malnutrition: Empirical evidence from Andhra Pradesh, India," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 39(C).
    7. Mariana Unda & Andrés Etter, 2019. "Conservation Opportunities of the Land Restitution Program Areas in the Colombian Post-Conflict Period," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(7), pages 1-19, April.
    8. Bonilla-Mejía, Leonardo & Higuera-Mendieta, Iván, 2019. "Protected Areas under Weak Institutions: Evidence from Colombia," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 122(C), pages 585-596.
    9. Barry REILLY & Rafael Isidro PARRA-PEÑA S., 2019. "Forests and Conflict in Colombia," Archivos de Economía 017507, Departamento Nacional de Planeación.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Deforestation; Conflict; Instrumental Variables; Colombia;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation

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