Friday, April 24, 2015

Being An Environmentalist Can Kill You

Global Witness, an NGO that exposes corruption and environmental abuse, released a report this week that called Honduras the most dangerous country to be an environmentalist. 

The numbers are heartbreaking.

Global Witness looked at the period 2002 - 2014 to accumulate statistics on the death of environmental activists around the world.  Brazil had the highest number of deaths, at 477, while Honduras had 111. Almost all of those deaths happened since 2010.  If you look at the rate of death of environmentalists over the last 5 years, it turns out Honduras leads, with 101 deaths.

Here's how the numbers work. 

From 2002 to 2009, Honduras had 0, 1, 2, or 3 deaths per year of environmentalists.  Starting with 2010, those numbers skyrocketed:  21 deaths in 2010, 33 deaths in 2011, 25 deaths in 2012, 10 deaths in 2013, and 12 deaths in 2014.  90% of the Honduran environmentalist deaths occurred in the last 5 years!

Global Witness found that mining and other extractive industries caused the largest number of deaths in 2014, with a tie for the second spot between Water and Dams, and Agribusiness.  These three accounted for 84% of the environmentalist deaths in 2014.

This violence has come down particularly hard on indigenous environmentalists.  Three Tolupan leaders were shot and killed during an anti-mining protest in 2014. 

The Global Witness report came out the same day that another Honduran indigenous environmentalist, Berta Cáceres, won the Goldman Prize:
The Goldman Environmental Prize honors grassroots environmental heroes from the world’s six inhabited continental regions....The Prize recognizes individuals for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk.
Cáceres was honored for her grassroots organizing of opposition to the Agua Zarca dam project.  Agua Zarca was a joint project of the Honduran company Desarrollos Energeticos S. A. (DESA) and SinoHydro, the Chinese government owned company recognized as the largest dam builder in the world.  DESA received a $24 million loan from the Banco Centroamericano de Integración Economico for the project. 

As the Goldman page for Cáceres notes, the project was promoted and approved in a corrupt and fraudulent fashion, failing to do the required consultation with the local Lenca communities that lived within the region slated for the reservoir, a violation of ILO 169 and other treaties to which Honduras is a signatory.

DESA was founded in 2008 and claims to be a Honduran pro-environment company:
DESA has always been concerned for the protection of the environment and because of this all its business practices and maintenance follow strict guidelines to be in harmony with nature.
Nature maybe, but not in harmony with the Honduran people, who they seems to despise. 
 DESA guards killed Tomas Garcia while he was protesting against the dam.  They attacked protesters with guns, clubs, and machetes over and over again during the protest, with impunity for all the wounds and the death inflicted.

DESA doesn't list its ownership or any company officers. DESA was able to employ and command Honduran military troops in the protection of of the dam site and equipment. DESA also arranged for trumped up arms charges to be filed against Berta Caceres, to try and jail her to stop the protests.

Ultimately they've failed.  SinoHydro has left Honduras and the dam project is halted.

And Berta Caceres has been honored with the Goldman Prize, which we can hope will help protect her from the fate of too many other Honduran environmental activists.

No comments: