By Richard Mann, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Almost a million people were involved in land conflicts in 2018, according to a report by the Episcopal Commission for Pastoral Care (CPT) presented at the National Bishops Conference of Brazil last week.

"The total number recorded since January 2019 to date already equates to 36 percent of deaths registered in 2018," the authors of the report said.
“The total number recorded since January 2019 to date already equates to 36 percent of deaths registered in 2018,” the authors of the report said.

According to the survey, 960,630 people were victims of land disputes, representing an increase in 35.6 percent compared to 2017. The trend among families is also growing: in 2018, 118,080 families were involved in land conflicts, 11 percent more than in 2017.

Although in 2018 the number of murders in rural areas declined significantly, from 71 in 2017 to 28 in 2018, the trend is set to pick up again this year. In the first four months of 2019, the CPT has already recorded ten land-related killings: “The total number recorded since January 2019 to date already equates to 36 percent of deaths registered in 2018,” says the report.

The members of the Land Pastoral Commission are also concerned about families in rural areas. In 2018 alone, 2,307 families were evicted from lands by public authorities. According to the CPT report, the number of land disputes has increased significantly since 2016.

Massive increase in water disputes

The statistics for 2018 are also anything but encouraging regarding water disputes: 2018 was the year with the highest water discord since 2002. The number of water disputes has risen by 40 percent and the number of affected families by 108 percent. According to the CPT report, 50.4% of the water bouts were triggered by mining companies; much of it was created in connection with hydroelectric power plants.

CPT points out that mining activity in itself isn’t the only source of conflict: “A mine requires a whole infrastructure of offices, warehouses, roads, railways, and pipelines. The use of these new areas inevitably leads to conflict with the population and communities living and working in those areas.”

The report also recalls that in 2017, 66 cases of slave labor were registered in rural areas. 386 of the 530 affected persons were released. In 2018, 86 cases were recorded, with 1,465 people affected, 945 of whom were exempted.

CPT also highlights the problem of environmental offenses, namely cases of workers who have been victims of pesticide poisoning. Three hundred sixty-three victims of pesticide poisoning were recorded between 2000 and 2018. However, the authors alert to the fact that the number of unreported cases is much higher. 

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