The world drug problem and sustainable development


Illicit crop cultivation often occurs in forested areas and contributes to deforestation when it results in the clearing of woodland. Moreover, illicit crop cultivation frequently takes place in biodiversity hotspots hosting a large number of species with a limited habitat, some of which are protected areas. It tends to occur close to the agricultural frontier, which demarcates the border between pristine forest and developed areas, and can result in the clearing of forests. Although empirical evidence and rigorous analy- sis do not support the claim that illicit cultivation is the major driver of deforestation, research does suggest that a lack of rural development drives the phenomenon. Analy- sis has shown, moreover, that drug trafficking can have a direct impact on deforestation through the construction of infrastructure such as landing strips and illegal roads, as well as indirectly through the privatization of public land to create “narco-estates”. When eradication induces a displacement of the location of drug crops it may result in deforestation as farmers react to eradication initiatives and seek places out of the reach of law enforcement. The disposal of chemicals used in the illicit manufacture of cocaine and opiates can also have negative consequences on the environment, contributing to pollution and health hazards in rural communities. In the case of synthetic drugs, the consequences in urban settings not only pose health risks but may also have an impact on the urban and industrial environment.

World Drug Report 2016 (pp. 63-94). UNODC, Vienna
Liliana M. Dávalos
Liliana M. Dávalos
Professor of Conservation Biology

I’m interested in how biology and the environment shape biodiversity in time and space.