Drug trafficking in Central America speeds up deforestation

Remote forests in Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua are being cut down to facilitate landing strips that aide in the transportation of narcotics, according to The Almagest.

The move has caused rapid increase in the amount of deforestation in the region.

While Colombia and Mexico have long been used as countries through which drugs have been smuggled, traffickers have recently had to turn to new markets, a study published in the journal ‘Science’ revealed.

In the last seven years, the region witnessed significant rise in the crackdown on the narcotics trade.

The Central American countries of Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua have become increasingly important as a route for trafficking.

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According to the study, in Honduras, the amount of new deforestation per year jumped more than fourfold from 2007 to 2011. During the same period, trafficking of cocaine in the country also rose.

The lead author of the study, Dr Kendra McSweeney from Ohio State University, said that a baseline deforestation rate in this region was 20 sq km per year.

“Under the narco-effect, we see over 60 sq km per year. In some parts of Guatemala, the rates are even higher. We’re talking up to 10 per cent deforestation rates, which is just staggering,” Dr Kendra added.

These activities are very difficult to stop. The reason is that the amount of money the traffickers have is impossible to compete with. And also they have enough political influence to ensure that their lands are not contested.

“Real firebrand indigenous and conservation leaders don’t breathe a word of this, out of fear,” Dr Kendra said.

“Honduras now has the world’s highest homicide rate. They’ve all been silenced,” Dr Kendra explained.

The authors of the report, however, also argued that the use of military force against the problem needs to be changed.

“We would encourage them to use their clout to really explore alternatives to this appallingly inappropriate, militarized approach to the drug problem,” Dr McSweeney said.