Ukraine, the war costs the environment 51 billion

Ukraine, the war costs the environment 51 billion


One year after the invasion, Ukraine is a country to rebuild. Not just in cities. Environmental damage will be felt for a long time, Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Ruslan Hrechanyk told, via video link from Kyiv. Hrechanyk had a background as a forest engineer before joining the government team. “ The Russians commit war crimes every day in violation of international rules, including the Geneva protocol - explains the politician - According to our calculations, the damage caused by the invasion is greater than 51 billion dollars, an estimate that is constantly growing. We have registered more than 2,300 cases of environmental crimes. Over a third of all our forests have been involved in the hostilities, with damage we estimate at around $500 million."

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Damage to water resources

Not only that. “ We estimate the damage to our water resources to be $1.5 billion. The marine ecosystem is also affected by the conflict: fuel from sunken ships is spilled into the water and more than a thousand cases of dolphin deaths have been reported in the Black Sea, not only near our coasts, but also in neighboring regions. Based on the data we have available, deaths increase coinciding with the launch of missiles by Putin's submarines ”, continues the politician.

Last October, in Mykolaiv, a drone attack damaged the tanks of one of the country's largest sunflower oil producers. The liquid ended up in the Bug River estuary before being sucked up. National parks are still staffed, Hrechanyk notes, even though they are not open to the public for safety reasons. " But over five thousand experts have been recruited and enrolled in the armed forces. And today there is a shortage of competent personnel in the country ”, says the deputy minister.

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The nuclear problem

We ask: is Kyiv able to manage nuclear power plants and related waste at the moment? According to Hrechanyk, "Russia violates all possible nuclear safety rules. The situation of the site around the largest plant in Europe, that of Zaporizhzhia, cannot be controlled. With a terrorist act, Moscow destroyed the bulkheads of the Kachovka hydroelectric plant, causing a drastic drop in the reservoir that serves to cool it. At the moment, the water level is 13.8 meters, against the sixteen necessary: ​​in recent days we have dropped to 13.6 meters. an accident similar to that of Fukushima , which, based on the direction of the winds, could also involve Europe. But there is also the National Science Center of the Kharkhiv Institute of Physics and Technology , equipped with a small reactor built for scientific purposes: the Russians bomb it regularly with targeted actions. At the moment it is impossible to repair it completely ”.

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The most mined country in the world

Hrechanyk says he is sure of the final victory. But the biggest unknown for the future, he says, is another: Ukraine is currently the most mined country in the world. How long will it take to clear it? “ Specialists of the state emergency services work non-stop, but they can clear a maximum of fifteen hectares of territory per day . It is a gigantic undertaking; a race against time to prepare the return of the eight million refugees, while Moscow's troops continue to place bombs,” he says. According to the ministry (quoting the Agribusiness in Ukraine report), 15% of agricultural land is contaminated with mines. Spills of oil and heavy metals, such as those contained in missiles and grenades, could lead to the temporary inability to farm. As regards the rubble of the buildings hit by the bombings, data held by the ministry say that the volume is comparable to that of domestic waste produced by the whole country in the course of a year. The government is preparing procedures to manage them: they are taken by local authorities to temporary centers where the dangerous components are separated. It should be noted that waste management is already a complex issue in peacetime; with an ongoing conflict, the controls, formally still present, loosen a lot.

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A protocol against environmental damage

Kiev regularly disseminates data on the environmental impact of the war according to an internally developed calculation methodology, says Hrechanyk, and there is certainly the intention to touch the strings of the 'emotion on a theme that, in recent years, is close to the heart of public opinion. But the protection of ecosystems in the event of conflict has been part of international treaties since 1977, when the Convention on the prohibition of the use of techniques for modifying the environment for military purposes or for any other hostile purpose was signed in Geneva, which entered into force on following year. The motive was concern about the consequences of using Agent Orange in Vietnam. The treaty was reached after a preliminary phase of dialogue between the American president Richard Nixon and the general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party Leonid Brezhnev in the middle of the decade. A document that has shown serious limitations: also because less than half of the members of the United Nations completed the process of necessary signatures and ratifications. This, together with the distinctions typical of diplomacy, have made it a flag instrument, a blunt weapon, difficult to wield. And we know that, in the event of war, promises are worth even less.

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