Sunday, September 24, 2023

Russia’s War Against Ukraine Will Have Toxic Effects On The Environment For Decades

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Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

In late May, a large plume of pink smoke erupted from a chemical plant and rose over apartment buildings in Ukraine’s eastern city of Severodonetsk. The smoke was poisonous – it came from a tank of nitric acid hit by Russian forces.

“Don’t come out of the bomb shelters!” the governor of the region, Sergiy Gaiday, said on Telegram, after the attack. “Nitric acid is dangerous by inhalation, ingestion and by skin contact.”

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, exploding chemical plants have become a terrifying reality for its citizens, but they are just one example of the staggering toll war is taking on the nation’s environment. Missiles pollute the soil and groundwater; to burn to threaten to expel radioactive particles; and warships have Reportedly dolphins killed in the Black Sea.

While not as visible as the thousands of lives lost, the environmental costs of war are insidious, harming people and wildlife for decades after fighting has ended. Armed conflict is indeed one of the leading forecasters of animal decline and a important resource of greenhouse gas emissions (only the US military emits) the value of countries of carbon dioxide). War is also linked to human health problemsincluding cancer and birth defects.

Ukrainian environmental groups are Keep up of the damage, which some experts say are war crimes. So far they have logged in almost 270 cases of potential damage ranging from damage to power plants to impacts on marine ecosystems. Now the question is, will Russia be held responsible for them?

An environmental crisis in Ukraine

Ukraine occupies less than 6 percent of Europe’s land area, but it is home to more than a third of the continent’s biodiversity. It is also highly industrialized, with hundreds of chemical plantsalmost 150 coal minesand more than a dozen nuclear reactor — including the largest in Europe.

Thus, an obvious problem is the destruction of these facilities. Shelling in the northern Ukrainian city of Novoselytsya . in March causes an ammonia leak in a fertilizer factory, threatening residents by contaminating groundwater and soil. Then there are those exploding tanks of nitric acid. Meanwhile, damage to coal-fired power plants can lead to the failure of electric water pumps, allowing contaminated water to flood into mines and contaminate groundwater.

(In 2014, Russia fueled a separatist movement in Ukraine’s coal and steel-producing region called Donbas. A year later, the UN estimated it would cost about $70 million to clean up the environment and restore water supplies. Al Jazeera reported

Small wildfires broke out near the defunct Chernobyl nuclear reactor after Russian forces took control of the reactor in late February, raising fears that radioactive particles would spread through the air.
Efrem Lukatsky/AP

Russia has also attacked oil and gas storage facilities, lighting up the sky with explosions that pollute the air and release carbon dioxide. †This video shows the aftermath of an attack on an oil terminal and a gas pipeline.)

The stuff in the missiles that both sides use can also poison the environment, according to the Ukrainian advocacy group Center for Environmental Initiatives Ecoaction. When they explode, artillery rockets can produce a number of harmful substances, including hydrogen cyanide vapor and nitrogen oxides, which can cause acid rain, Ecoaction said.

In April, the Ukrainian army shot down a Russian missile, and some of the debris fell on an agricultural site, leaking toxic chemicals into the soil and water. CNN’s Ivana Kottasová reported:† Officials told people living nearby not to drink water from wells, and there were reports of dead fish in a river several miles away, Kottasová reported.

“Now and in the future, heavy metals will be present in our groundwater and soil,” said Evgenia Zasiadko, who leads Ecoaction’s climate work. told the non-profit citizen of the world. “We’re an agricultural country, and if it’s not an active war, I don’t know how we’re going to rebuild anything because it’s going to be polluted.”

Can Ukraine get reparations for “environmental crimes”?

While war may seem lawless, it is in fact governed by a series of international laws, including the Geneva Conventions, some of which prohibit serious and lasting damage to the environment. Under certain circumstances, the International Criminal Court (ICC) considers those actions to be war crimes.

Countries have used these laws before to seek environmental remediation. In 1991, during the Gulf War, Iraqi forces deliberately set fire to hundreds of oil wells in Kuwait millions of barrels spilled into the Persian Gulf.

The environmental toll was dizzying: Tens of thousands of tons of sulfur dioxide and smoke poisoned the air, causing respiratory disease and damaged crops. Hundreds of seabirds perished. In response, the UN ordered Iraq to pay Kuwait approx $3 billionas part of a much larger recovery package (which Iraq ready to pay in February).

In late May, a mortar shell exploded near a wetland in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.
Aris Messinis/AFP via Getty Images

But it’s incredibly difficult to prove that environmental damage violates international law, Shireen Daft, an international law expert and lecturer at Macquarie University, told cafemadrid. Ukraine would have to demonstrate that the destruction is “widespread, prolonged and severe,” she said.

And even then, there is no easy way to prosecute Russia, she added. The ICC adjudicates individuals, not nations, and Ukraine will also face hurdles as it recovers for the environment through the UN International Court of Justice, she said.

“The law lacks the power needed to provide concrete protection for the environment,” Daft said. “And in a situation like Ukraine, where there is so much potential for environmental damage, that’s very worrying.”

That’s one reason why some scientists called for a new Geneva Convention laying down more explicitly the protection of the environment during war. A department of the UN called the International Law Commission also has a set of non-binding principles that help clarify how international laws of war apply to the environment.

However, other experts are convinced that the world community will somehow hold Russia responsible. Russia’s actions on the environment violate the laws of war, said Carroll Muffett, president and CEO of the nonprofit Center for International Environmental Law, especially given that war itself is illegal under international law (because it’s a war of aggression

“It could take months or years or even decades, but Russia will be held accountable for this,” Muffett told cafemadrid. “I don’t see how Russia can avoid that outcome.”


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