The profound consequences of war or armed conflict are known throughout the world. Environmental pollution is defined as “the contamination of the physical and biological components of the earth/atmosphere system to such an extent that normal environmental processes are affected”. Although environmental pollution is not a new phenomenon, it remains the greatest threat facing humanity today. Industrialization, urbanization and deforestation have destroyed the global ecological front. Wars further increase the environmental damage already underway, making global warming, mass migration and compromised living conditions a reality.
Previous instances on the impact of war on countries
Since the US military launched the “global attack” on terrorism after 9/11, it has emitted over 1.2 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases. The United States Department of Defense is the largest institutional consumer of oil, and therefore the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. The numerous military operations in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan have had serious repercussions on the environment and ecology of these countries. Vehicles used in military conflicts use a lot of petroleum, releasing tons of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, and sulfur dioxide in addition to carbon dioxide.
An international study of Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) mentioned that the impact on the environment could manifest itself in the form of floods, droughts, rapid changes in crop quality, changes in growing seasons and increased displacement due to rising water levels. of the sea. If humans continue to advance at the same pace, the future looks uncertain and bleak as resources continue to become scarce and the population increases. Countries that identify themselves as superpowers spend too much to keep their military personnel and equipment healthy, thereby compromising the environment.
The extent of any war is unknown at first. First of all, targeting oil production, industries and weapon manufacturing plants is likely to have chemical pollution in the environment. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) concluded a report on the Kosovo War and said the military conflict had not caused any specific “ecological disaster”; however, this has resulted in “serious hotspots where contamination from hazardous substances released during airstrikes poses risks to human health and the aquatic environment”.
Massive oil spills after the Kuwait war
During the Iraq War in 1991, forces fired directly at oil wells in Kuwait, destroying seven hundred oil wells and spilling nearly 60 million barrels of oil. The impact of the war could be felt years later when experts said more than ten million cubic meters of soil was still contaminated until 1998. Additionally, two-fifths of Kuwait’s freshwater resources remain contaminated until today. The military had dumped 10 million barrels into the Gulf, reducing the coastline by 1,500 km and costing more than $700 million to clean up. During those war months, the average temperature had dropped by 10 degrees Celsius and sunlight had diminished in the region.
Landmines and cluster munitions are another means of destroying the environment during war. The effect of landmines lasts much longer than the conflict and destabilizes communities. Farmland becomes unusable, access to water is restricted, wildlife is harmed, and chemicals seep into the soil, destroying its quality. The Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq and Resident Coordinator, Irena Vojáčková-Sollorano, said: “We must not forget that people continue to suffer from this pollution. We must not lose sight of how this fuels uncertainty and anxiety. on their health and livelihoods. The environment has long been a silent victim of decades of conflict in Iraq, and contaminated areas must be cleaned up so people can live in their homes in safety and dignity.”
What is the impact of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict on the world?
As Russian forces advanced into Ukrainian territory, observers warned that the latest violence could have a lasting impact on the environment. UNEP took to Twitter to advocate for a ceasefire to keep everyone and the environment that sustains life on the planet safe. As researchers warned that Ukraine’s industrial infrastructure, power grid or chemical plants could become the target of Russian airstrikes, Ukraine reiterated that if nuclear sites were targeted, the result could be more damaging than the Chernobyl disaster.
Ukraine is often called the breadbasket of the world and therefore the repercussions of war could be felt far beyond the country’s borders. Ukraine exports more than 40% of its wheat and corn, which are sent to Europe and Africa. The African continent is experiencing severe food shortages in typical situations, and the current crisis has only worsened food insecurity among countries. When Russia annexed Crimea to Ukraine in 2014, more than 13,000 people were killed. Ukraine’s controversial Donbass region, which Russia has identified as independent, is one of the country’s most polluted regions.
Industrial pollution, contaminated water supplies and factory closures have also raised growing concerns among environmental activists. In separatist-controlled regions, untreated sewage is dumped into the Donetsk River, affecting the lives of people who depend on it for their daily water needs. In 2018, the United Nations reported that the conflict in Donbass had destroyed at least 530,000 hectares of land, including 18 nature reserves. Much of it was scorched in more than 12,000 wildfires that broke out near the battle zone, some of which were believed to have been started by artillery strikes.
A ceasefire would be the next best step in reducing the environmental damage that both countries and the world have already suffered. While initially it might seem like the invasion only affects warring nations, the lasting ecological impact would be heavy on the global environmental front. While on the one hand, several countries are trying to switch to green energy for their daily needs, other countries continue to wage war on each other. Therefore, together, we are only destroying the environment by increasing carbon emissions, releasing greenhouse gases, widening the ozone hole, thus facilitating the melting of the ice caps in the Arctic region and the rising global temperatures.
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