Russia should pay for its environmental war crimes | MarketingwithAnoy

Like Russian bombs and bullets have crushed buildings and brought lives, Ukrainian scientists have struggled to catalog the impact of the war on the country’s natural biodiversity. Many who have flown outside to check for bat colonies, frogs or endangered plants have risked security to map hot spots and secure data. Ukraine’s wildlife boasts a diverse landscape of dense forests, alpine meadows, grasslands, wetlands and estuaries that house animals such as bears, wolves, lynx, gofer, grouse, storks, sturgeons, dolphins and the furry blind mole. The country serves as an important waypoint for many species of migratory birds.

If anything, the value of an environment increases as war destroys what was once available, sometimes permanently. Damage to Ukraine’s air, water, plants and animals is likely to continue long after its cities are rebuilt. One day, the information Ukrainian scientists are now gathering could provide evidence of Russia’s environmental crimes. Russia should pay for this environmental destruction. If only the justice system could wake up to reality.

The war is takes its toll on Ukrainian wildlife. “Many animals are afraid of the noise, of the vibrations,” says Oleksii Marushchak, a nature conservation biologist based in Kiev. Nesting sites for birds have been destroyed. Military vehicles have sunk into rivers and lakes and with them countless tons of oil and other harmful chemicals. “They will destroy the food base of small animals like insects. No insects mean no frogs; no frogs mean no cranes.”

Fires, explosions and collapsed buildings have filled Ukrainian air, water and soil with harmful particles and nitric acid. Poisoned resources can take decades to remedy.

The Ukrainian habitat of the marbled rodent cat, a rare and beautiful animal resembling a gold-spotted ferret, is now entirely a war zone. In a national nature park in southeastern Ukraine, the Russian military crushed a rare and endangered crocus-like flower, the saffron of the spring meadow. In the Black Sea, military activity reportedly kills dolphins. In Chernobyl, the Russians have burned over 37,000 hectares of forest. According to the Ukrainian nature conservation group, 44 percent of Ukraine’s protected natural areas have suffered damage due to the war.

Global ecosystems rely on biodiversity to survive in stressful times. Before the war, the country already lacked resources set aside for conservation. Once the war is over, the Ukrainians will need healthy land for crops, clean water for drinking and fishing, forests for cooling and natural spaces to rebuild their biodiversity and for some mental health. Crop areas eroded by bombs and poisoned by pollutants will take several years to tear out and replace. Toxic pollutants in rivers and streams will kill fish and their food, and what is left is likely to be unsafe to eat. Forests that are not directly destroyed by bombs, bullets or fire will be logged for reconstruction, and unexploded ordnance will make walks unsafe. More than a decade after the war in Iraq, its impact on environmental infrastructure is evident in sewage-filled roads and brackish water.

“Facilities such as plants, shops or McDonald’s can be restored with some proper investment,” says Oleh Prylutskyi, a mycologist and professor at Ukraine’s Kharkiv National University, “but scientific and cultural heritage may be lost forever.”

Russia must be made responsible for the environmental damage it inflicts. Environmental damage deprives a country of its cultural and natural artifacts and creates distress for its civilians. If no one is held responsible for these actions, they will be perceived as acceptable.

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