War and the Environment

It is not enough to say that the war has a negative impact on the environment, World Protection Day which is celebrated today, on June 5.

Attacks on forests, terrestrial and marine ecosystems, industrial facilities, transport infrastructure and houses, destruction of water supply systems, and sewage systems and barbaric waste management provoke large-scale and serious damage with long-term consequences for the environment and human health. The global environmental community is concerned about the events in Ukraine, because the issue of ecology and climate change is not the problem of one country, so the world media have repeatedly written about the war and its consequences for ecology.

FRANCE-24: “As the war continues to rage on the territory of Ukraine, the pollution of soils and waterways is a serious concern for environmental activists. Ukraine is one of the most industrialized countries in Europe, where, according to estimates, 6 billion tons of liquid waste are stored, which is generated at coal mines, chemical enterprises, and other branches of heavy industry. Over the past six months, such extremely sensitive objects have been constantly subjected to Russian shelling.”

THE GUARDIAN: “One of Belarus’ oldest and largest wildlife NGOs are forced to close after allegations of ‘extremism’, as conservationists warn of ‘darkness’ engulfing a region known for its rich natural heritage. Former employees of BirdLife Belarus have been arrested on suspicion of trying to destabilize the political situation in the country under the guise of protecting birds, one of whom has been in a pre-trial detention centre for six months. The court ordered the organization to close after 24 years of operation next month. The Frankfurt Zoological Society lost more than a third of its European program to the war in Ukraine, where it had been doing conservation work for two decades. It supports efforts to help refugees fleeing conflict find temporary accommodation in protected areas. Politically, the war risks jeopardizing the European Green Deal’s biodiversity plan, as the EU delays the publication of a directive on the sustainable use of pesticides and “nature restoration” targets, citing concerns about food security caused by the war.

BLOOMBERG: “Ukrainian officials and architects are already thinking about rebuilding cities destroyed by the Russian invasion in an environmentally friendly way that helps fight climate change. The new European Bauhaus is the EU’s proposal for the aesthetics of the continent’s green transformation. Announced in 2020, it is part of a regional “Green Deal” of €1 trillion ($1.17 trillion) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century. The plan calls for an overhaul of Europe’s economy, legislation, energy balance, architecture, and design. Europe’s highest executive body wants this idea to go beyond the union and play a role in the reconstruction of war-torn Ukraine.”

GREEN EUROPEAN JOURNAL: “The war in Ukraine is raging through one of the most industrialized and polluted areas in the world. The legacy of Soviet heavy industry has already been a public health disaster, but the Russian incursion risks further damaging the ecosystems on which the people living in these regions depend. The environmental effects of the conflict are a reminder that even when the fighting stops, the violence will be felt for generations to come. Since the beginning of the conflict, abandoned coal mines have filled Donbas with toxic and sometimes radioactive substances. Many environmental risks arise from sudden interruptions in mine production: mine water must be continuously pumped out; if pumping stops, toxic water fills the shafts and moves upward, eventually reaching and contaminating land and drinking water. Contaminated water from one mine flows into others because many mine shafts are connected.”

RADIO-FREE EUROPE: “Besides the thousands of deaths and the destruction of critical infrastructure, another, more invisible crisis related to the Russian invasion could haunt Ukraine for decades. From the shelling of chemical plants to forests burned by rockets, the consequences will be felt not only by the ecosystems of Ukraine but also by its people. The environmental danger Ukraine faces as a result of the armed conflict is also exacerbated by the country’s industrial background. Heavy industry is a significant part of Ukraine’s economy, especially in the east. The largest nuclear power plant in Europe is located in Ukraine, in the city of Zaporizhzhia, and the industry of Ukraine creates almost 29% of its gross domestic product.

POLSKIE RADIO: “The number of victims of Russian aggression against Ukraine is increasing, and the ecological situation in the region is deteriorating. Damages related to Russia’s destruction of Ukraine’s natural environment are estimated at billions of euros. War also contributes to the emission of greenhouse gases, in particular, methane from a damaged gas pipeline.

BUSINESS INSIDER: “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could have catastrophic consequences for the environment and residents. Donbas is a region where the presence of heavy industry increases the risk of an environmental threat, and therefore a threat to the civilian population. The Nikitiv mercury mine, which produces mercury, is also a potentially toxic point in Donbas, which has been known for decades. Several abandoned mercury mines and a dump are classified as the first category of hazard for soil and water. CHP in Luhansk is another potential “environmental bomb”. Since the start of the conflict, there have been several cases of power plants being set on fire, resulting in damage or shutdown. Power plants may contain high levels of polychlorinated diphenyls, which could lead to local soil and water contamination if the plants are affected by attacks.”