Kiev – Close to the first anniversary of the conflict in Ukraine, Greenpeace and the Ukrainian NGO Ecoaction publish a “Map of environmental damage” caused by the war and to denounce the very serious impacts on ecosystems. The two organizations are also asking the Kiev government and the European Commission to set up a fund for the restoration of the environment, a silent victim of war.
The data, collected by Ecoaction and available online, was confirmed by satellite images and mapped by Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe (EEC). The map illustrates 30 of the 900 events collected, to highlight the most serious environmental impacts. According to official information, around 20 percent of the country’s protected natural areas and 3 million hectares of forest have been damaged since the start of hostilities, while another 450,000 hectares are in areas occupied or affected by fighting.
War has caused fires, damaged habitats and polluted water, air and soil, while bombing of industrial sites has resulted in further contamination. Explosions also release a cocktail of chemicals into the atmosphere. The main one, carbon dioxide, is non-toxic, but contributes to climate change. Sulfur and nitrogen oxides can also cause acid rain, modifying the pH of the soil and causing the burning of vegetation, especially conifers. Acid rains are also dangerous for humans and fauna, because they have a serious impact on the mucous membranes and respiratory organs.
Metal fragments from grenades are also dangerous for the environment. Cast iron mixed with steel is the most common material for ammunition shells and contains not only iron and carbon, but also sulfur and copper. These substances infiltrate the soil and can end up in groundwater, entering the food chains of humans and animals.
“Mapping war damage in Ukraine is complicated by the fact that much of the liberated territory may be littered with mines and other explosive devices, while Russian forces still occupy parts of the country, making data collection difficult,” says Denys Tsutsaiev of Greenpeace EEC in Kiev. “However, it is necessary to highlight these damages, because environmental restoration must have a central place in the debate on the future of Ukraine. Funds need to be allocated now, not when the war is over.”
With Ecoaction, Greenpeace asks “that the reconstruction of cities take place in parallel with the environmental restoration of the country. The suffering and environmental destruction in wartime is immense and has long-term consequences on people’s lives and the ecosystems of affected areas. For this reason, we demand: an immediate ceasefire and peace negotiations that immediately make available financial resources for the environmental restoration of Ukraine”.