Deep scars on mother earth

The environmental scars left by this battle are permanent


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G Sai Prashanth

The war between Russia and Ukraine has cost many lives, destroyed communities, and caused immeasurable pain, in addition to the damage to towns and cities. However, there is one often overlooked victim of this ongoing war - the environment! The environmental scars left by this battle are permanent, serving as a constant reminder of the consequences of human strife. The actions of modern warfare have had a wide range of environmental effects, excessive use of fuel, and the destruction of once-thriving ecosystems. The environmental effects of this war are anticipated to leave a deep scar on the face of the earth.

Impacts of the war

The primary impact of any war is always the significant number of casualties, both civilians and soldiers. Other than deaths caused due to direct violence in the war, a huge number of people are indirectly affected. There is a rise in unemployment rates after the unpredictable entry of escaped refugees from the conflict zones. Despite being a secondary impact of the conflict, environmental implications range from pollution caused by weaponry to complete destruction of forests and national parks. In the long run, these consequences cause more deaths than the war itself.

Ukraine, also known as the breadbasket of Europe, accounts for approximately 35% of the continent's biodiversity. Nearly 25% of the world's wheat is produced by Russia and Ukraine collectively, and they are also major producers of corn, barley, and sunflower seed oil. Farmers will be unable to harvest this year's crop because of the continuous battle, and if they are unable to plant crops this spring, they run the prospect of a food crisis lasting into the following year. The war has also reshaped the global food and fertiliser markets. There are more than 70,000 indigenous and endemic species of plants and animals in the forests of Ukraine. This war has destroyed an umpteen flora and fauna. Ukraine has around 16% of its geographical area covered with forest, and from 2022 to 2023, more than 20,000 hectares of the forest in the Luhansk region have already been burnt down due to forest fires brought on by explosions from the artillery according to a study conducted by the UNEP (UN Environment Programme). Large tracts of agricultural lands have been destroyed by the war, and damage to industrial facilities have resulted in severe air, water, and soil pollution, exposing residents to toxic chemicals.

Developing green insecurity

Concerns over the contamination of ground and surface water intensifies as polluted water from the regions of the war feeds into the largest river in eastern Ukraine, the Siverskyi-Donets, presenting a threat to international water supplies as well as to local sources of drinking water, making this a transnational threat. Climate change is already affecting global wheat production by restricting countries' ability to cultivate wheat, increasing demand, and aggravating food shocks from imported food. The protracted war poses the potential to make things worse in areas that already depend on exports from Russia and Ukraine to lessen the effects of climate change on their own food output. The environment shouldn't be considered an inevitable wartime casualty. Human security and environmental security are interwoven, and the crisis in Ukraine is creating environmental devastation that might have long-lasting, widespread effects. This has developed a green insecurity among the people.

Damage beyond borders

Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky, during his speech in the New Zealand parliament in December 2022, said that the pollution in the groundwater following the war, has a significant effect on the ecosystems of the bordering nations. In the wake of the war, air pollution affects more than just the surrounding area. The war's devastation also extends beyond the borders of Ukraine; it unavoidably has an effect on nearby nations through shared ecosystems and waterways, as well as on nations further away owing to disruptions in global food supply chains and biodiversity loss. Therefore, the need to address it immediately has become even more apparent as the scope of environmental catastrophe brought on by this war is becoming increasingly clear.

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