UN worries about 'toxic legacy' of war in Ukraine 'for generations to come'

“The mapping and initial examination of environmental risks only serve to confirm that war is literally toxic,” says UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen.

Le United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), which defines itself as the world's leading authority on the environment, is studying the environmental impact of the conflict in Ukraine. Their preliminary monitoring indicates significant impacts on urban and rural environments that could leave the country and the region with a toxic legacy for generations to come.

The organization claims to have identified "thousands of possible incidents of air, water and soil pollution and ecosystem degradation, including risks to neighboring countries".

UNEP and its partners point to the damage caused by the conflict in many parts of the country, including incidents at nuclear power plants and facilities, energy infrastructure, including tankers, oil refineries, drilling platforms and gas facilities and distribution pipelines, mines and industrial sites and agro-industrial facilities. Multiple air pollution incidents and potentially serious ground and surface water contamination result from this damage. The organization also points to the damage to several industrial facilities, warehouses and factories, some of which store a range of hazardous substances, but also to hydraulic infrastructure. UNEP is still reporting hazardous substances released by explosions at agro-industrial storage facilities.

Added to this damage is pollution from extensive weapons use, including in populated areas, and large volumes of military waste, including destroyed military vehicles, which create a major cleanup challenge.

“The mapping and initial examination of environmental risks only serve to confirm that war is literally toxic,” says UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen.

“The first priority is that this senseless destruction ends now. The environment is about people: it is about livelihoods, public health, clean air and water, and basic food systems. This is a secure future for Ukrainians and their neighbours, and further damage must not be done. Ukraine will then need enormous international support to assess, mitigate and repair the damage across the country and mitigate the risks for the entire region. »

For Osnat Lubrani, senior UN official in Ukraine, “the restoration of Ukraine's environment must be a top priority”.

“Millions of displaced Ukrainians need a safe and healthy environment to return home if they are to be able to get their lives back together. As soon as the fighting is over, and it must end soon, a colossal clearing operation must be supported. »

MC

Image credit: Shutterstock.com / Alexandros Michailidis

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