A plume of pink smoke rose from a chemical plant in late May and sprang above apartments in Severodonetsk, Ukraine eastern city. It was poisonous because it was from a tank containing nitric acids that had been struck by Russian military forces.
After the attack, Sergiy Gameday (region’s governor) said via Telegram that “Do not leave shelters!” “Nitric acid can be dangerous if it is inhaled, swallowed, or comes in contact with the skin.”
Exploding chemical plants and the threat of war have been a terrifying reality in Ukraine since Russia invaded Ukraine. But they are just one example of the devastating effects that war has on the country’s environment. Rockets pollute the soil and groundwater, and fires threaten radioactive particles. Warships have apparently killed dolphins at the Black Sea.
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Although not as obvious as the loss of thousands of lives, war’s environmental effects are subtle and quietly affect wildlife and people for many decades. Armed conflict is one of the most important predictors of animal decline as well as a major source of greenhouse gas emissions (the US military emits countries’ worth of carbon dioxide). War can also be linked to human diseases such as cancer and birth defects.
Ukrainian environmental groups keep track of the damage. Some experts believe this amounts to war crimes. They have logged almost 270 potential harm cases so far. These range from power plant damage to marine ecosystem impacts. The question now is: Will Russia be held responsible?
Ukraine is facing an environmental crisis
Ukraine is less than 6 percent of Europe’s total land area. However, it contains more than a quarter of Europe’s biodiversity. It is also industrialized with many chemical plants and nearly 150 coal mines. There are more than a dozen reactors, including Europe’s biggest.
One obvious problem is the destruction of these facilities. The destruction of these facilities was the result of shelling in Novoselytsya, a northern Ukrainian town. There are also exploding nitric acid tanks. Damage to coal-fired power stations can lead to electrical water pumps failing, which could cause contaminated groundwater to leak out from the mines.
In 2014, Russia supported a separatist movement within the coal- and steel-producing region of Ukraine known as Donbas. A year later, the UN estimated that it cost $70 million to clean up and restore water supplies. Al Jazeera reported.
Russia also attacked gas storage facilities and oil terminals. This lit up the sky with explosives that pollute the atmosphere and emit carbon dioxide. ( This video shows what happened after an attack on an oil terminal or a gas pipeline.
The contents of rockets used by both sides can also poison the environment, according to the Ukrainian advocacy group Center for Environmental Initiatives Eco action. Eco action stated that artillery rockets can explode and produce several noxious substances, including nitrogen oxides and hydrogen cyanide, which can lead to acid rain.
CNN’s Ivana Kottasova reported that the Ukrainian army had shot down a Russian ballistic missile in April. Some of the debris fell on an agriculture site and leaked toxic chemicals into the soil. Kottasova reported that officials advised residents not to drink water from nearby wells and that there were reports of dead fish found in a river a few miles away.
Evgenia Zasiadko from Ecoaction’s climate program stated that heavy metals would be found in our soil and groundwater “now and in the future,”, to the non-profit Global Citizen. “We are an agricultural country. When it’s not active war, I don’t know how we will rebuild anything. It’s going to pollute.”
Is Ukraine eligible for reparations for environmental crimes?
Although war may seem unregulated, it is actually governed by a number of international laws, including the Geneva Conventions. These conventions prohibit the infliction of severe and permanent damage to the environment. In certain circumstances, the International Criminal Court may consider these actions to be war crimes.
These laws have been used by countries before to seek environmental compensation. The Gulf War saw the Iraqi military set ablaze hundreds of Kuwaiti oil wells and deliberately spill millions of barrels of oil into the Persian Gulf.
The environmental damage was shocking: Tens of thousands of tons of sulfur dioxide and smoke poisoned the air, causing respiratory illness and crop damage. Many seabirds perished. As part of a larger reparations package, the UN ordered Iraq to pay Kuwait around $3 billion. This was in response to the fact that Iraq had already paid in February.
However, it is extremely difficult to prove that environmental damages violate international law. Shireen Daft at Macquarie University, an expert on international law, said that this was true. She said that Ukraine would need to prove that the destruction was widespread, long-term, and severe.
She said that Russia can’t be prosecuted easily even if they are tried individually. She said that the ICC only tries individuals and not nations. Ukraine, if it seeks to obtain environmental reparations through the UN’s International Court of Justice will face similar obstacles.
Daft stated that the law lacks the strength to protect the environment. This is especially concerning in Ukraine, which has so many potential environmental damages, Daft stated.
This is one reason why scientists have called to request a new Geneva Convention, which more clearly enshrines the protection of the environment during war. The International Law Commission, a UN division, has developed a set of principles to clarify the application of international war laws to the environment.
Others, however, believe that Russia will be held accountable by the international community in one way or the other. Carroll Muffett is the president and CEO of the Center for International Environmental Law. This is especially true considering that Russia’s actions towards the environment are in violation of the laws of war (because it’s a war for aggression).
The spokeswoman Muffett said that Russia would be held responsible for the outcome, despite it taking months, years, or even decades. “I don’t see how Russia can avoid that outcome.”
The team is escalating more updates about the poisonous pollution that is directly injected from Russia to Ukraine. However, the current pollution affects a lot to Ukraine. We hope the relief gets soon for the country of Ukraine.