For the past few weeks, countless media outlets have extensively covered the odds between Russia and Ukraine. While the media focused on the humanitarian aftermaths, international viewpoints, and various ways to aid the wounded, a key consequence of the invasion has been declassed to the periphery. A consequence that will not only have a profound impact on the current victims but will also linger for years in Ukraine's premises.
As the indignation intensifies, the cauldron is bound to overflow, culminating in humanitarian, economic, and environmental repercussions for Ukraine. According to researchers, if the conflict continues at its current intensity, Ukraine and its outlying neighborhoods would become uninhabitable sooner than before. But why?
Ukraine has a rich and blessed nature today, encompassing 6% of Europe's landmass and over 30% of its biodiversity, with over 70,000 rare species calling it home. It preserves some of Europe's major rivers, such as the Dnipro, Dniester, Piudenny Buh, Danube, among others. Forests constitute 16 percent of the country's area, making them the primary source of timber, a well-known trading commodity in Ukraine. It contains around 33 wetlands that serve international importance with one of them being the Eastern Syvash Wetlands.
As Russian military forces are storming and attacking with modern warfare, these resources are being irreparably harmed, causing considerable concerns for the Ukrainian population as well as the trading sector. Artillery blasts have raised the likelihood of forest fires as well as inflicting damage to food sources, putting food security at threat. Forest fires will also wreak havoc on the country's lumber and wheat supplies, resulting in food scarcity for Ukrainians and also the rest of the continent, as Ukraine is an important trade hub. The fires in the Black Sea Biosphere Reserve from the dispute were detectable from space and may have destroyed trees and unique habitats for birds in the largest nature reserve in Ukraine.
Along with food, which is a critical aspect of human survival, another major impact is the country's habitability. Considering Ukraine is a heavily industrialized country, it already has one of the poorest air qualities in the region, and projectiles aimed toward such places of economic activity, because of its exposure and vulnerability; results in large and poisonous compounds contaminating the air and extending toxicity throughout the region and beyond. Russia has also planned to pressure Ukrainian military infrastructure, many of which are located near civilian areas, where those munitions have the potential to leave not only instantaneous destruction but also a longer-term lineage of heavily contaminated air and water that will be experienced by nearby residents long after the conflict has ceased. The use of explosive weapons in population centers causes pollution from pulverized building materials, which may include asbestos, metals, and combustion products, as well as enormous quantities of debris, which can contribute to soil and groundwater pollution by rupturing wastewater pipes. When light industry or facilities such as gas stations are located close to residential areas, pollution risks can be amplified.
Weapons remnants, such as metals and explosives, are among the other pollutants. Russia has also been accused of using banned cluster munitions in urban areas, in addition to missiles and artillery. That's not to mention the heavy metals and other toxins in the air. Due to the nature of modern warfare, this will be immensely complex and irreversibly destructive when combined and fired. As the issue persists to disrupt electricity in homes, hospitals, and other public buildings, more people are turning to backup generators that rely on diesel, which emit fumes and those will be heavily contributing to dangerous concoctions in the atmosphere. As a result, this contaminates the land and groundwater, turning the economic core into a pollution hotspot.
The world followed the action outside the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on February the 24th, remembering how the tremors from the Chernobyl tragedy 36 years before are still reverberating to this day. The area was seized by Russian forces, and elevated levels of gamma rays were detected on the same day. It doesn't end there; another nuclear reactor among Ukraine's 15 has also been reported to have been captured. If these places are destroyed, the world will be forced to witness history repeat itself. Not only will the radioactive decay have impact miles beyond Ukraine, but it also damages and scars bio and geodiversity intensively.
This is merely a small part of the devastation and destruction that is, and will be, unleashed!
As citizens of the world concerned about extreme climate change, global warming, and the welfare of the innocent, it is critical that we take more than a moment to confront and assist in this situation in any form we can, questioning proper authorities who have enabled this carnage to perpetuate.
A conflict is not a war if it is one-sided.