Toxic smoke, contaminated rivers, poisoned soil, trees reduced to charred stumps, nature reserves pocked with craters: the environmental toll from Russia’s war with Ukraine, which has been detailed in a new map, might once have been considered incalculable.
But extensive investigations by Ukrainian scientists, conservationists, bureaucrats and lawyers are now under way to ensure this is the first conflict in which a full reckoning is made of environmental crimes so the aggressor can be held to account for a compensation claim that currently stands at more than $50bn (£42bn).
The environment ministry has set up a hotline for citizens to report cases of Russian “ecocide”, which so far number 2,303, and issues weekly updates of the tally. The latest edition estimates that in the past year:
- Ukraine has had to absorb or neutralise the impact of 320,104 explosive devices.
- Almost one-third of the country (174,000 sq km) remains potentially dangerous.
- Debris includes 230,000 tonnes of scrap metal from 3,000 destroyed Russian tanks and other military equipment.
- A hundred and sixty nature reserves, 16 wetlands and two biospheres are under threat of destruction.
- A “large” number of mines in the Black Sea threaten shipping and marine animals.
- Six hundred species of animals and 880 species of plants are under threat of extinction.
- A third of Ukrainian land is uncultivated or unavailable for agriculture.
- Up to 40% of arable land is not available for cultivation
Altogether the losses from land, water and air pollution amounted to $51.4bn, estimated Oleksandr Stavniychuk, the deputy head of the department of environmental control and methodology, at a recent workshop in Kyiv. [Continue reading…]