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News > World

Nearly 4 Environmentalists Killed Every Week in 2017: Report

  • Protesters demanding justice for slain Honduran activist Berta Caceres.

    Protesters demanding justice for slain Honduran activist Berta Caceres. | Photo: Reuters

Published 4 February 2018

The number of deaths recorded in 2017 is four times higher than 2002.

Nearly four environment defenders were killed every week in 2017 over "the ruthless scramble for natural wealth," a new report by Global Witness has revealed.

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Totalling 197 in 2017, most of the deaths were recorded in agribusiness owing to a surge in demand for soy, meat, sugarcane and palm oil. Thirty six killings were recorded in the mining and extracting industry as the global demand of building materials saw a rise. 

Another organization, Environmental Justice Atlas, found out that over 2,335 cases of conflict were over water, territory, pollution or extractive industries. 

The number of deaths recorded in 2017 is four times higher than 2002.

"Until companies, investors and governments genuinely include communities in decisions around the use of their land and natural resources, the people who dare to speak out will continue to face violence, imprisonment, and loss of life," Rachel Cox, a campaigner for Global Witness, told The Guardian.  

In Latin America alone, 46 people were killed in Brazil and 32 were killed in Colombia last year. 

A new report that was released in January and published by the non-profit Front Line Defenders noted that of the 312 human rights defenders murdered across the world in 2017, 212 of them (67.9 percent) were from Latin America.

According to PAN Asia Pacific, which based its own report on an analysis of 21 countries, nearly 55 percent of environmentalists in Latin America were "killed by the state." 

The report also noted similar deaths in other regions of the world.

In India's northern state of Jharkhand, three members of a family in the village of Jatpura were killed fighting to prevent sand extraction from a nearby riverbank. In Turkey, a retired couple was gunned down soon after they won a legal battle to shut down a marble quarry which provided blocks for upscale hotels and municipal monuments. 

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In Africa, illegal wildlife poachers and traders have been deemed as the real threat. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, four rangers and a porter were ambushed and killed in July. In Tanzania, a renowned conservationist, Wayne Lotter, was murdered after receiving death threats. 

"As the international community sits up and listens to these hidden stories, there is a momentum for renewed pressure on companies and investors to take more responsibility and further scrutinize governments who have allowed those who kill to get away with it," Cox added. 

"By putting these killings on the map, and campaigning for governments, companies, and investors to safeguard and consult communities affected by projects on their land, we hope that our work helps to end levels of impunity that have emboldened the perpetrators of violence and in most cases, allowed them to literally get away with murder." 

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