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The environmental legacy of Russian invasion of Ukraine will take years to clean up

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is turning into an environmental disaster that will takes yars yo clean up.

Some of the devastation in Chernihiv. The historic centre of the northern city is on the Tentative List, meaning that Ukraine wants it considered for World Heritage status. — © AFP
Some of the devastation in Chernihiv. The historic centre of the northern city is on the Tentative List, meaning that Ukraine wants it considered for World Heritage status. — © AFP

Death and destruction aren’t all that’s been left in the wake of Russia’s unrelenting war on Ukraine. Environmental experts say there is also the contamination of the nation’s water, air, and soil.

Russia’s war in Ukraine is poisoning the soil, water, and the air, with environmental-health experts saying pollutants released by the continuing assault could take years to clean up while raising the risk of cancer and respiratory ailments as well as developmental delays in children, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Since February 24, the Russian invasion has brought death, displacement, and the demolition of Ukraine’s landscape – and the consequences of the war will be felt socially, economically, and environmentally.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine raises a host of unique and potentially profound environmental concerns for not only the people of Ukraine but the wider region, including much of Europe,” Carroll Muffett, president, and CEO of the Center for International Environmental Law told ABC News.

There were environmental consequences as a result of the first and second World Wars, however, our recent history provides a more accurate and detailed blueprint for the sheer amount of greenhouse gases emitted during modern wars.

It is difficult to wrap one’s mind around the hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, and sulfur dioxide emitted from military vehicles, and other heavy machinery.

“We now understand the environmental dimensions of war in ways that we didn’t decades ago,” Muffett said. “This is a particularly egregious situation because the entire world is calling for Russia to end its invasion right now.”

Particularly worrisome is the damage to Ukraine’s nuclear plants. The country’s 15 active nuclear reactors could pose a danger not only in Ukraine but outside of its borders, Muffett says. “As we saw with the [1986] Chernobyl disaster, these impacts can last years to decades,” he tells

“The environmental consequences of war are simply consequences in human impacts of war that can continue long after the shells have stopped exploding, long after the bullets and the guns have ceased,” Muffett says. 

Written By

Karen Graham is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for environmental news. Karen's view of what is happening in our world is colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in man's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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