Around the Region

Land-rights and environment defenders targeted in region

Over 900 people defending environmental and land rights, the vast majority of them Latin Americans, were murdered worldwide from 2002 to 2013, according to a recent report. The report “Deadly Environment,” released April 15 by Global Witness, a London-based nonprofit, says that 908 people from 35 countries were known to have been killed while defending their rights to land and a healthy environment during the 12-year period, with the number escalating precipitously in the last four years. Of those killed, 82% were Latin Americans, the report says. Authors of the study say it’s likely more such killings occurred but were not reported, adding that, even so, the number that was documented is on a par with the number of journalists killed worldwide during...

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Study questions viability of big hydroelectric dams

A new Oxford University study recommends developing countries be cautious about building large dams because the projects tend to be economically unviable and prone to cost overruns and financial risks that can shackle sponsor governments in debt. Published last month in “Energy Policy,” a leading academic-science journal, the study “Should we build more large dams? The actual costs of hydropower megaproject development,” was authored by four Oxford University scholars and funded by the university’s Saïd Business School. The authors investigated 245 large dams—defined as those over 15 meters high—built from 1934 to 2007 on five continents and in 65 countries at a cost of US$353 billion. They concluded that nearly half of these dams suffered cost overruns so large that the...

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Colombia ends suspension of Drummond coal exports

The U.S.-based coal company Drummond resumed exports from Colombia on March 31 following a 10-week suspension that experts say highlights more vigorous government oversight of the mining industry’s environmental performance. Government authorities on Jan. 13 halted coal exports from Drummond’s docks near the Caribbean port of Santa Marta after it failed to meet a deadline for coal-exporting companies to load their coal onto ships using enclosed conveyor belts. Drummond previously used cranes to load its coal onto barges for delivery to ships. That process, authorities say, led to the fouling of beaches and contamination of the ocean floor with coal dust. The suspension, which stopped Drummond from shipping 80,000 tons of coal per day, or one-third of Colombia’s coal exports, cost...

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