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The Russia-Ukraine War’s Environmental Effect

Among all the other tragedies, that the Russia-Ukraine war has caused, the conflict has brought about significant ecological damage. Results of the war include everything from forest fires to water pollution to soil contamination and more. The environmental costs of war are not as widely reported on as the loss of human lives, but it will radically impact the lives of Ukrainians and have serious long-term effects.

The environmental damage to Ukraine has been a concern since the beginning of the conflict.

On February 26th, 2022, Russian troops destroyed the dam that separated the Irpin River from the Kiev Reservoir. In only a month and a half, the water from the reservoir had flooded the floodplain of Irpin up to the village Horenka, which is more than 10 kilometers distance.

While Ukraine only makes up a small percentage of Europe, it houses more than a third of Europe’s biodiversity. It has hundreds of chemical plants and coal mines, as well as more than a dozen nuclear reactors. The destruction of these facilities causes a pertinent threat. For example, an ammonia leak from a fertilizer factory in Northern Ukraine contaminated groundwater and soil, which threatens the health of the local population. The ammonia leak from the factory was caused by shelling from Russian forces.

Evgenia Zasiadko, the head of the climate department at Ecoaction, a Ukrainian environmental advocacy group, is extremely concerned for the future of her country. She told Global Citizen “We’re an agricultural country, and when it’s not an active war, I don’t know how we’re going to rebuild anything because it’s going to be polluted.”

The environmental damage caused by the war doesn’t stop at Ukraine or Russia, though. The pollution from the conflict will impact neighboring countries because of shared ecosystems and waterways. Additionally, countries located farther away will be affected by interruptions to global food supply chains. Both Ukraine and Russia export a large amount of corn, barley, and wheat. The conflict has caused the price of these products to skyrocket.

Nate Rott, an NPR reporter, traveled to Ukraine and spoke with ecological inspectors who have documented more than three hundred cases of ecological damage since the Russian invasion began. However, because much of Ukraine is inaccessible to the ecological inspectors due to Russian occupation, they actually estimate that there is upwards of fifteen-hundred cases of ecological damage. The inspectors are collecting soil samples in the hopes of charging Russia with environmental war crimes; however it may not be easy as there is not much precedent for that in international court.

Image Source: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

 Editor: Lindsey Neri

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