More than 160 activists were killed last year around the globe defending land and waterways from development — an average of three deaths per week, according to Global Witness, an environmental watchdog group. The Philippines, Colombia, and India had the highest number of murders, with 30, 24, and 23 deaths, respectively.
More than half of last year’s murders took place in Latin America. Guatemala, for example, saw a five-fold increase in the killing of environmental activists, jumping from three to 16 deaths in 2018, making it the most dangerous country per capita. Mining was the deadliest sector globally, with 43 activists murdered for trying to stop mineral extraction projects. And the single deadliest event last year was the massacre of 13 people in India in response to a protest against a copper mine in the state of Tamil Nadu.
Last year’s total of 164 murders marks a decrease from 2017, largely due to a drop in deaths in Brazil and the Philippines. But Global Witness warns that early data from 2019 indicates this year could one of the worst on record.
“The signs are worrying that the situation for environmental and land defenders will worsen,” the new report says. “The rise of populist strongmen around the world has brought a clampdown on protest, often under the pretense of protecting national security or fighting terrorism. The broader social and political consequences of these developments are generally dire, and they bring specific dangers for defenders.”
For more on the killings of environmental activists around the globe, read e360’s three-part series Environmentalists at Risk.