The covid-19 pandemic led to rapid and large-scale government intervention in economies and societies. A common policy response to covid-19 outbreaks has been the lockdown or quarantine. Designed to slow the spread of the disease, lockdowns have unintended consequences for the environment. This article examines the impact of Colombia’s lockdown on forest fires, motivated by satellite data showing a particularly large upsurge of fires at around the time of lockdown implementation. We find that Colombia’s lockdown is associated with an increase in forest fires compared to three different counterfactuals, constructed to simulate the expected number of fires in the absence of the lockdown. To varying degrees across Colombia’s regions, the presence of armed groups is correlated with this fire upsurge. Mechanisms through which the lockdown might influence fire rates are discussed, including the mobilisation of armed groups and the reduction in the monitoring capacity of state and conservation organisations during the covid-19 outbreak. Given the fast-developing situation in Colombia, we conclude with some ideas for further research.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank the two reviewers for their helpful comments, Ian Bateman for his editorial guidance, and Leonardo Correa of the Fundación Paz y Reconciliación (PARES) for help in accessing data. Data used in the econometric analysis are available from the authors on request. Qualitative material used in this paper originated from the ‘Bioresilience of Andean Forests in Colombia’ research project, financed by NERC-UK.
© 2020, The Author(s).
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- Armed groups
- Forest fires