The environment: another victim of Russia's invasion

the environment: another victim of russia's invasion

Experts warn the war in Ukraine has had a severe toll on the environment

Ravaged forests, flooded towns and dead dolphins: after nearly two years of war in Ukraine, experts say environmental damage is becoming an “enormous” tragedy that will affect generations to come.

The invasion of Ukraine has been particularly devastating for nature, said Doug Weir, head of research at the Conflict and Environment Observatory, a British non-governmental organisation.

Unlike conflicts limited to particular areas, the front line in Ukraine is “incredibly long” — stretching over hundreds of kilometres — and the fighting is relentless, he said.

Along with intense artillery fire, there has also been an increase in pollution due to frequent attacks on energy infrastructure and vast amounts of debris generated by bombing in urban areas.

the environment: another victim of russia's invasion

The recovery could require decades and experts say even estimating the real extent of the damage might take years

“The environment has been massively a victim of this war,” Weir said.

The environmental cost was estimated in November at “a staggering $56 billion”, said Jaco Cilliers, resident representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Ukraine.

“The scale of the tragedy is enormous,” he said.

– ‘Incomplete’ picture –

In the east of the country, where the fighting has been particularly fierce, an oak forest that was more than 300 years old was “entirely destroyed by the war”, said Bohdan Vykhor, director of environmental group WWF-Ukraine.

the environment: another victim of russia's invasion

It is impossible to work out the number of dolphins killed in the Black Sea during fighting

Ruslan Strilets, Ukraine’s minister for environmental protection and natural resources, told AFP that around 30 percent of forests and 20 percent of national parks had been affected by the fighting.

The recovery could require decades and experts say even estimating the real extent of the damage might take years.

Large parts of Ukraine are inaccessible for environmental experts, either because they are under Russian occupation or are near the front line.

Scientists have to make approximations remotely based on satellite data or images posted on social media.

“The picture we have is always incomplete,” Weir said.

It is impossible, for example, to work out the number of dolphins killed in the Black Sea, which has also become an important battleground.

“We have officially registered a thousand dolphin deaths,” including many found beached after being disoriented by the sounds of military activity, Strilets said.

But, he added, experts put the real number in the “tens of thousands”.

– Supporting the army –

Some of the destruction is well known, including the explosion of the Kakhovka dam that caused massive deadly flooding over the summer in southern Ukraine.

Yehor Hrynyk, an expert with the Ukrainian Nature Conservation Group, fears the conflict may also be having less visible effect.

For example, the need to pay for an expensive war may push the government towards “increased exploitation of natural resources” such as logging.

“Let’s not forget that battles are won by armies, and wars are won by economies,” said Strilets, though he promised that economic recovery would not come “at the expense of our environment”.

Getting the environmental message out while bombs are falling is no easy task.

“It definitely got harder and harder to reach the attention of media, authorities, general society,” Hrynyk said.

The activist said he is often told: “We need to come back to it after the war ends.”

Weir said his organisation has received messages saying: “Why are you concerned about the environment in conflict when so many people are dying?”

His response: “If you want to breathe, if you want to eat, if you want to drink, then the environment is key to that.”

Cilliers said there needed to be a better understanding “that environmental destruction carries enduring implications, impacting generations and reaching far beyond Ukraine’s borders”.

But even for an activist like Hrynyk, “the number one priority, including for the environment”, is to support the army in defending Ukraine against Russia.

“The faster Russia is defeated, the faster we can go back to our normal life and bring the environment higher on the agenda.”

bur-led/jbr/js/mca

News Related

OTHER NEWS

Aliw Awards nominations out

ALIW Awards Foundation Inc. President Alice H. Reyes has released the names of finalists for the 2023 Aliw Awards to be presented on Dec. 11, 2023, at the Manila Hotel ... Read more »

WhatsApp Web gains the feature of single-view photos and videos

WhatsApp Web gains the feature of single-view photos and videos (Photo: Unsplash) The WhatsApp Web, the desktop version of the popular messaging app from Meta, has received an update allowing ... Read more »

Young athletes’ time to shine in Siklab Awards

Young athletes’ time to shine in Siklab Awards MANILA, Philippines — The future heroes of Philippine sports will be honored during the third Siklab Youth Sports Awards on Dec. 4 ... Read more »

Local exec says 5-10 barangays still isolated in Northern Samar

Graphics by Jannielyn Ann Bigtas A local government official said Monday that five to 10 barangays in Northern Samar are still isolated following the massive flooding in the area last ... Read more »

App made by ex-jeepney driver will let you pay PUV fare, book tricycles

DyipPay app lets you pay jeepney fare, book tricycles “Barya lang po sa umaga.” Everyone who rides jeepneys knows this rule: it may not be an actual law, but it’s ... Read more »

Updated In-Season Tournament Bracket ahead of pool play finale

Updated In-Season Tournament Bracket ahead of pool play finale Tuesday will mark the last day of pool play for the inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament. From there, six first-place teams and ... Read more »

PCG forms teams for maritime emergency response

PCG forms teams for maritime emergency response MANILA, Philippines — Recent incidents of fishermen lost in the waters off Southern Tagalog have prompted the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to form ... Read more »
Top List in the World