2017 could be the bloodiest year on record for environmental defenders

People who protect the environment are now being killed at a rate of almost 4 a week, up from 1 a week a decade ago.

The war on environmentalists is particularly savage in the Philippines, India, Brazil, Colombia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

A Philippines based NGO recently send out a cry out for international help about what’s happening in the island country since President Rodrigo Duterte got to power. Duterte build his reputation and popularity with a purge on drug users, with a plan to just kill them. But the atmosphere of impunity and violence has spread far beyond the drugs sphere. Using martial law, the army is now using combat and bombing operations against earth defenders.

As a result, under Duterte’s watch at least 42 environmental defenders were killed, 240 were slapped with harassment lawsuits, and over 16,400 were forcibly displaced because of their resistance to destructive projects.

The EEB was one of 116 NGOs from 25 countries that signed the statement, which demands that:

“The Duterte administration must immediately free all remaining 16 illegally detained environmental defenders from prison, and drop all 225 trumped-up charges still lodged against environmental defenders.”

The statement was launched during the major UNEA3 meeting on the environment.

As bad as it is in the Philippines, this is just one hotspot. Just last Friday, Hernán Bedoya, a community leader from Colombia, was assassinated by a neo-paramilitary group. Hernan had returned to his land with his family (and a group of families) in 2012 after being displaced by paramilitaries in late 1990s.

Since then he has denounced palm oil, banana and ranching companies in the Chocó region (Colombia’s Pacific region) for illegal usurpation of land and deforestation.

But even the cases were activists were killed are just the tip of the iceberg. The Environmental Justice Atlas has no less than 2,300 environmental conflicts in the world – all mapped according to various parameters, such as commodity, country, company or level of conflict.

The Atlas is maintained and expanded by the EnvJustice project, in which the EEB is a partner. Under this project, a team of political ecologists and ecological economists at the Autonomous University of Barcelona also does research on the links between all these environmental conflicts and the current economic system.

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