The World Daily
Russia’s part in Ukrainian environmental crisis

A fire at a warehouse after a Russian Kalibr missile was shot down over Kalynivka village in Ukraine on 8 March. Photo: EPA 


By Patryk Krych | The World Daily | MAY 16th 2022 


With bombings and killings occurring all over Ukraine as its defensive war against Russia carries on, many have concerned themselves with surviving the conflict. For some, however, this has brought up a question – what will the country look like, if and when the invaders are finally driven back? Just how green and liveable will a country ravaged by war manage to remain?

Last week, United States presidential envoy John Kerry warned that the longer Putin’s war carries on in Ukraine, the worse the consequences will be not only for the country’s own environment, for the world’s climate.

“If it’s a long period of time, obviously that makes [staying within 1.5C] very complicated,” said Kerry. “It depends on what happens with the war, where the war goes and how long it lasts. If miraculously we can somehow find a way to resolve some of the fundamental problems in the next six months, then maybe we could just accelerate everything together. I think we can make up some distance [in progress on tackling the climate crisis].”

He added that the agreements that had been set down during the UN Cop26 climate summit last year would have had some serious troubles in establishing their goals if they were occurring through the current circumstances, but that not all hope is lost yet – as there is still a chance of those goals being met.

“The longer this goes on, the harder it becomes [to stay within 1.5C]. There are a number of scientists who believe we are on the edge of 1.5C now. Anything that is not part of the acceleration [of emissions-cutting efforts] gets in the way,” he said.

The destroyed military equipment in Ukraine, as well as the pollutants from missiles and explosives that had been set off within the country, have all led to some chemical contamination of the soil and groundwater according to a briefing from Ukraine’s ministry in charge of environmental protection last month. Much of the land, including farmland, has thus been harmed in additional manners.

From the start of the conflict on February 24, up until April 27, Ukraine had suffered the usage of about 79,169 explosive devices, 1,955 aircraft bombs, and 567.4kg of explosives. All this across a surveyed area of ​​13,473 hectares.

“[The situation] of course is very serious,” Nickolai Denisov, deputy director of the Geneva-based Zoï Environmental Network, told Al Jazeera. “Above all, there’s the impact on people. But there’s also that on the environment.”

Denisov is a member of a team that maps the instances of disruption and damage related to the war in Ukraine. The team had reported about 3,300 incidents in around 600 settlements having occurred by the end of April. Ukraine had been struggling with environmental pollution for many years now, and the conflict has escalated the situation.

“The scale of the war and the number of risks is so enormous – this is completely different from anything we have seen in Europe for many years,” Denisov added. 

And he made it clear that it’s not only Ukraine that suffers in terms of pollutants – but also the surrounding Russia and Belarus, which share the Dnieper River with Ukraine. The pollution of the country’s waters means potential pollution for their invaders and neighbours, as well.

“The war is not the only thing that’s in the way of the acceleration – an unfortunate indifference in some quarters, outright disinformation in others, and people who just love the status quo is perhaps one of our biggest problems,” Kerry added.


By Patryk Krych | © The World Daily 2022 

Source: Al Jazeera, The Guardian,