Roads Benefit People But Can Have Massive Environmental Costs

“Road-killed tapir in Peninsular Malaysia (photo © WWF-Malaysia/Lau Ching Fong).  Located in the wrong places, roads can open a Pandora’s Box of problems,” says William F. Laurance.

“In a recent Opinion in National Geographic News (14 October 2014), U.S. Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn makes a compelling case that roads can have major benefits for rural people—improving access to modern farming technologies, education, and healthcare, and even limiting the influence of extremist groups that prey on isolated communities.

“However, Ambassador Quinn tells only half of the story. Yes, many roads or road improvements can yield major economic and social benefits. But other roads become environmental disasters—opening a Pandora’s Box of problems such as illegal logging, poaching, wildfires, and land speculation.”


GR:  Roads open areas to invasive species; they raise wildlife-disturbing noise levels, and they block wildlife movements.  In some areas, roads lead to ecosystem disruption by encouraging tourism, recreational travel, and hunting.  According to, keeping wild areas free of roads is a remarkably cost-efficient way of preventing deforestation and protecting biodiversity.  Read more about road impacts.