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UN: War Taking Environmental Toll on Ukraine

UN: War Taking Environmental Toll on Ukraine
(Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images)

By    |   Thursday, 07 July 2022 09:39 PM EDT

Ukraine is experiencing widescale environmental impact from Russia's ongoing invasion, according to a United Nations report, from deforestation to air, water and soil contamination caused by destroyed chemical plants.

A United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) analysis indicates the vast majority of the country's regions were affected to some extent. It said despite the agency's limited ability to conduct a full surgery of conditions, the preliminary results are concerning.

Among the largest concerns are that nuclear power plants and facilities have been damaged. The largest nuclear power plant in Europe is located in the occupied city of Zaporizhzhya, the site of tank battles in early March.

Countless bombings of oil storage tanks, refineries, gas facilities and distribution pipelines were followed by massive fires of Ukraine's extensive forests, which comprise 16% of the country's territory.

Near the recently captured eastern city of Lysychansk, 42,000 acres were destroyed and Ukraine's Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources estimates the cost to be around $135 million.

Soil, groundwater and waterways across the country have been contaminated by solvents, ammonia and plastics leaking from chemical plants. Moreover, corpses of livestock — as well as humans killed in the conflict and buried — are decomposing in the soil. That has impacted water quality.

In Mariupol, sewage treatment facilities have been destroyed, heightening fears of cholera and dysentery epidemics.

''The mapping and initial screening of environmental hazards only serves to confirm that war is quite literally toxic," UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said. ''The first priority is for this senseless destruction to end now. The environment is about people, it's about livelihoods, public health, clean air and water, and basic food systems."

A study by Brown University said 40 tailings storage facilities — or TSFs, ground holding areas for uneconomical ore, sand and silt from industrial production — already have been damaged. Ukraine has 465 TSFs, storing over 6 billion tons of waste, and 200 of those are in eastern Ukraine, where most of the fighting has occurred.

Nearly 30% of Ukraine consists of of sprawls of forests, plains and mountains untouched by cities or industry. Additionally, 63,000 rivers flow through Ukraine, and its largest river, the Dnipro, is the third longest in Europe.

As of May, the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources had recorded 231 alleged environmental crimes with an estimated cost of $700 million.

''While the occupiers are shelling industrial facilities and provoking large-scale accidents on our territory, it is important for Ukraine to use all available international legal instruments to protect our citizens and the environment from the consequences brought by the 'Russian world,'" Environmental Protection Minister Ruslan Stilets said on the ministry's official website.

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Ukraine is experiencing widescale environmental impact from Russia's ongoing invasion, according to a United Nations report, from deforestation to air, water and soil contamination caused by destroyed chemical plants
ukraine, russia, environment, impact, united nations
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2022-39-07
Thursday, 07 July 2022 09:39 PM
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