From a report at NPR:
People who track killings of environmental activists say the numbers have risen dramatically in the last three years. Improved reporting may be one reason, they caution, but they also believe the rising death toll is a consequence of intensifying battles over dwindling supplies of natural resources, particularly in Latin America and Asia.
A report released Tuesday by the London-based Global Witness said more than 700 people — more than one a week — died in the decade ending 2011 “defending their human rights or the rights of others related to the environment, specifically land and forests.” They were killed, the environmental investigation group says, during protests or investigations into mining, logging, intensive agriculture, hydropower dams, urban development and wildlife poaching.
The Global Witness report indicates that 106 activists were killed last year alone. In 2010, the figure was 96.
Stunning, alarming — and not without precedent. Similar tactics have been used to intimidate and blunt efforts by democracy and labor activists for years. But the struggle here isn’t limited to political considerations. As resources become increasingly scarce and habitats shift due to global warming, these figures can be expected to get worse, not better.
Targeted assassinations, disappearances followed by confirmed deaths, deaths in custody and during clashes with security forces are being reported. The killers are often soldiers, police or private security guards acting on behalf of businesses or governments. Credible investigations are rare; convictions more so.
“It’s so easy to get someone killed in some of these countries. Decapitate the leader of the movement and then buy off everyone else — that’s standard operating procedure,” says Phil Robertson, Asia deputy director of Human Rights Watch.
Thankfully, activists — like this newly galvanized group in Malaysia — remain undeterred.