Aileen Dimatatac / Majority World / Universal Images via Getty
Fikile Ntshangase’s daughter says that last October, three armed men entered her mother’s house and shot her dead.
Ntshangase had publicly questioned a local coal mine that she believed to be – literally – undermining the small South African town where she lived, located about 360 miles east of Johannesburg.
“She saw the cracks in the walls of people’s houses and wondered if they were caused by the constant explosions in the mine,” her daughter, Malungelo Xhakaza, told Global Witness, an international rights group. humans. “She saw the coal dust building up in the living rooms and wondered if it was building up in people’s lungs too. And she saw the strain that the mine was causing, the families it broke, the fear it spread. “
Ntshangase is one of 227 activists who the group said were killed last year as part of their grassroots environmental efforts, according to a report released Monday.
His murder was one of two in South Africa in 2020 attributed to environmental activism. However, the group says many more have performed elsewhere, with more than half in just three countries: Colombia, Mexico and the Philippines.
“As the climate crisis worsens, forest fires devastate swathes of the planet, drought destroys farmland and floods claim thousands of lives, the plight of frontline communities and advocates Earth is getting worse, ”according to the report.
Indigenous communities, which represent only about 5% of the world’s population, have borne the brunt of anti-activist violence, accounting for more than a third of those killed, he said.
The figure for 2020 was up from the 212 reported by Global Witness the previous year.
In Colombia, where 65 of these militants were killed, a third of the attacks “targeted natives and Afro-descendants, and nearly half targeted small farmers”. No attacks were recorded in North America or Europe, and only one – in Kiribati – took place in Oceania. On a per capita basis, Nicaragua, Honduras, Colombia, Guatemala and the Philippines were the most dangerous places to be a grassroots environmental activist, according to the report.
Alliance Delmer Membreno / dpa / photo via Getty Images
While the highest number of killings – 23 – was linked to logging, others were linked to water and dams, mining, illegal crop substitution and agro -industry. In some places, protests have been either stigmatized or criminalized, the group said previously.
Global Witness says its report documents the willful killing of “people who take a stand and take peaceful action against the unjust, discriminatory, corrupt or harmful exploitation of natural resources or the environment.”
The group says it collects data by examining publicly available online reports and datasets from international and national sources and only counts murders that have “clear, immediate and documented links to an environmental issue or land “.
The number of such deaths last year was more than double the 2013 figure, but Global Witness believes its data is an undercount because it is based on the level of transparency, press freedom and civil rights in communities. different countries.
The group calls for urgent action and recommends that companies and governments be “held accountable for violence against land and environmental defenders, who are often on the front lines of the climate crisis.”