We must not overlook the environmental destruction caused by war.

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We must not overlook the environmental destruction caused by war.

We must not overlook the environmental destruction caused by war.
The long-term effects of Agent Orange continue to impact the health of both the environment and local populations. (Reuters)

There are several armed conflicts occurring in the world today. War, with its devastating consequences, extends beyond human suffering and displaced communities, leaving an indelible mark on the environment. Unfortunately, the devastating effects of armed conflict on nature are often overlooked. That’s why it’s important to explore the multifaceted and profound effects of war on the environment and shine a light on the voiceless and innocent victims who suffer long after the guns have been silenced.

The environmental damage caused by war is enormous and complex, involving a variety of destructive forces that alter landscapes, pollute air and water, and destroy ecosystems. The widespread use of weapons, deliberate destruction of infrastructure, and displacement of populations contribute to a chain reaction of ecological impacts. In fact, the collateral damage done to the environment, from soil pollution to deforestation, can last for generations.

A report published this month in the Social Science Research Network revealed alarming statistics on greenhouse gas emissions during the first two months of Israel’s war on Gaza. Emissions during this period exceeded the annual emissions of 20 countries and territories. The study, titled “Multitemporal Snapshot of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Israel-Gaza Conflict,” found that in the first 60 days after October 7, 281,315 tons of carbon dioxide were emitted as a result of the war. I’m guessing. According to co-author Benjamin, this is the equivalent of “75 coal-fired power plants operating in a year,” according to Neimark, a senior lecturer at Queen Mary University of London.

He also highlighted that the carbon dioxide emissions associated with rebuilding Gaza are expected to exceed those of more than 130 countries in a year, and be on par with New Zealand in terms of environmental impact. These findings highlight the environmental impact of armed conflict and highlight the urgent need to consider ecological factors in conflict resolution and recovery efforts.

The immediate effects of war are visible in the form of bombed-out buildings and displaced people, but the reconstruction phase also contributes to environmental degradation. Rebuilding infrastructure often involves resource-intensive processes, placing additional strain on natural resource supplies. Additionally, the disposal of debris and waste generated during reconstruction poses challenges in terms of controlling pollution and maintaining environmental sustainability.

Throughout history, wars have left indelible scars on the environment, altering landscapes and ecosystems and impacting generations. One obvious example is the Vietnam War. During the Vietnam War, the widespread use of herbicides, especially Agent Orange, had serious ecological consequences. Defoliation operations have resulted in the destruction of vast tracts of lush forests, causing soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, and contamination of water sources. The long-term effects of Agent Orange continue to impact the health of both the environment and local populations.

From soil pollution to deforestation, collateral damage to the environment can last for generations.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

The Syrian civil war has also highlighted the multifaceted environmental damage caused by war. The conflict witnessed the deliberate targeting of critical infrastructure, including water treatment facilities. The destruction of such facilities not only deprives civilians of access to clean water, but also leads to the contamination of water sources, posing serious threats to public health and ecosystems. Another contemporary example is the conflict in Yemen. There, hostilities have led to environmental neglect and degradation.

One of the current problems is that modern weapons introduce new dimensions of environmental destruction. Depleted uranium munitions, which the United States and other militaries have used in conflicts, pose long-term environmental and health risks. Its radioactive nature can contaminate soil and water, affect ecosystems, and endanger human health over long periods of time.

Additionally, air raids and bombings release pollutants into the atmosphere, contributing to air and soil pollution. For example, the destruction of industrial facilities can release harmful chemicals, as seen in conflicts such as the Syrian civil war, and attacks on chemical plants can release toxic substances that affect air and water quality. It gets worse.

One of the most direct environmental impacts of armed conflict is the release of pollutants into the air and soil. The detonation of explosives and the burning of infrastructure release harmful particles and toxins and contribute to air pollution. Fallout settles on the soil, contaminating it with toxic substances that can have long-term effects on both the environment and public health.

It is very important to point out that clean water is a serious concern in times of war. The deliberate targeting of water infrastructure such as dams and treatment plants further exacerbates the problem of water scarcity. Meanwhile, displacement and increased demand are putting pressure on available water resources and creating conflicts over access. Additionally, contamination of water sources due to the release of pollutants during war poses a serious threat to the health of aquatic ecosystems and the communities that depend on these waters.

In short, nature bears the scars of destruction and devastation, and the environment is an often overlooked victim of war. From polluted air and water to biodiversity loss and ecosystem strain, the environmental toll of war is a widespread and enduring crisis. It is vital that the international community recognizes the victims of environmental destruction.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist.

X: @Dr_Rafizadeh

Disclaimer: The views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Arab News.

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