from TheGuardian Website
Honduran indigenous environmentalist Berta Cáceres,
who was killed last year.
Photograph: Marvin Recinos/AFP/Getty Images
are dying violently at the rate of about four a week,
with a growing sense around the world that
'anyone can kill environmental defenders
See the names of all defenders
who have died so far this year here.
Read more from the project here.
Last year was the
most perilous ever for people defending their community's land,
natural resources or wildlife, with new research showing that
environmental defenders are being killed at the rate
almost four a week across the world.
Two hundred environmental activists, wildlife rangers and indigenous leaders trying to protect their land were killed in 2016, according to the watchdog group Global Witness - more than double the number killed five years ago.
And the frequency of killings is only increasing as 2017 ticks by, according to data provided exclusively to the Guardian, with 98 killings identified in the first five months of this year.
John Knox, UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, said:
leader and opponent of illegal logging Isidro Baldenegro López
was killed in January.
In May, farmers in Brazil's Maranhão state attacked an indigenous settlement, hacking with machetes at the hands of their victims in another land conflict that left more than a dozen in hospital.
There have also been killings of environmental defenders and attacks on others in,
...and many other countries since the new year.
Isidro Baldenegro López (foreground)
at home in the village of Coloradas de la Virgen, Chihuahua, Mexico,
where he opposed illegal logging operations.
Photograph: Courtesy of the Goldman Environmental Prize
Most environmental defenders die in remote forests or villages affected by mining, dams, illegal logging, and agribusiness. Many of the killers are reportedly hired by corporations or state forces. Very few are ever arrested or identified.
We will be reporting from the world's last wildernesses, as well as from the most industrialized countries on the planet, on the work of environmental defenders and the assaults upon them.
Billy Kyte, campaign leader on this issue at Global Witness, said that the killings that make the list are just the tip of an epidemic of violence.
Around the world, the number and intensity of environmental conflicts is growing, say researchers.
An EU-funded atlas of environmental conflict academics at 23 universities has identified more than 2,000, ranging over water, land, pollution, evictions and mining.
Greenpeace activists block a 135km illegal road,
in the Altamira national forest, Brazil.
The road cuts directly through the forest
and is used for illegal logging operations and deforestation
inside the protected area.
Photograph: Daniel Beltrá/Greenpeace
The 2016 Global Witness data shows that the industries at the heart of conflict were mining and oil, which were linked to 33 killings.
Logging was in second place worldwide - with 23 deaths, up from 15 the previous year - followed by agriculture.
That ranking could change. In the first five months of this year, the most striking trend is that for the first time agribusiness is rivaling mining as the deadliest sector, with 22 deaths worldwide - just one short of the total for the whole of last year.
The situation in
Colombia in particular has gone from bad to worse in 2017. Brazil
and the Philippines are also on course to hit new highs and
indigenous groups continue to suffer disproportionately.
In terms of country rankings, in 2016 Brazil was once again the deadliest country in absolute terms with 49 killings, many of them in the Amazon rainforest.
Timber production was implicated in 16 of those cases as the country's deforestation rate surged by 29%.
The Amazon rain forest
bordered by deforested land.
Photograph: Paulo Whitaker/Reuters
More broadly, Latin America remained the most dangerous region for anyone wanting to protect,
...accounting for 60 of the global total of killings of environmental defenders even though it is home to less than a tenth of the world's population.
With major economic interests at stake, state security forces were behind at least 43 killings globally - 33 by the police and 10 by the military - while private actors such as security guards and hit-men were responsible for 52 deaths.
The human cost of
all this is terrible, said Laura Cáceres, one of the
daughters of Honduran indigenous Lenca leader Berta Cáceres,
who was murdered in 2016 after resisting the
hydroelectric dam on the Gualcarque river.
Now in exile following death threats, Cáceres was recently in Oxford, in the UK, at a conference organized by 'Not1More' (N1M), a group founded in 2016 in response to the violence facing environmental defenders.
People protest against violence and insecurity
and demand justice over the murder of Honduran
indigenous environmental activist, Berta Cáceres.
Photograph: Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images
Shortly after the conference The Guardian reported that another of Cáceres' children, Berta Zúñiga had survived an armed attack soon after being named leader of the indigenous rights organization formerly led by her mother.
Defenders frequently say they get no help from government, indeed corrupt governments are often implicated in the violence.
One west African anti-illegal logging activist, who asked not to named for fear of reprisals, said:
Wildlife defenders are also being increasingly targeted.
More than 800 park rangers have been killed by commercial poachers and armed militia groups in the past 10 years, according to US group Global Conservation.
US writer Olesia Plokhii, who witnessed the murder of Cambodian illegal logging activist Chut Wutty in 2012, wrote in the Ecologist last month:
The 2016 Global Witness report also notes that environmental protest is being clamped down on across the board - even in the richest countries - citing the case of the Standing Rock campaign against the construction of an oil pipeline under Lake Oahe in the US, and noting North Dakota legislators only narrowly defeated a bill that would have allowed drivers to run over and kill protesters without being jailed.
'N1M' co-founder Fran Lambrick told The Guardian: