Road construction is thought to result in forest loss, but causal identification has been elusive. Using multiple causal identification strategies, the authors find that India's rural road construction program, which built new feeder roads to over 100,000 villages and 100 million people, had precisely zero effect on local deforestation. In contrast, when 10,000 kilometers of India's national highway network were upgraded, there was substantial forest cover loss, driven by increased timber demand along the highway corridor. In terms of forests, last mile connectivity had a negligible environmental cost, while expansion of major corridors had important environmental impacts.
The Ecological Footprint of Transportation Infrastructure