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The other victim: The environmental costs of the Russia-Ukraine War

GS Paper 3

 Syllabus: Environmental Pollution


Source: Indian Express


Context: The conflict in Ukraine has racked up environmental costs that will far outlive the actual fighting.


How is the war affecting the environment?

  • Fighting-induced destruction: Nuclear power plants and facilities, energy infrastructure, including oil storage tankers, oil refineries, drilling platforms and gas facilities and distribution pipelines, mines and industrial sites, and agro-processing facilities are getting destructed.
  • Pollution: Air pollution and potentially serious contamination of ground and surface waters.
  • Deforestation: More than 2 million hectares of forest have been destroyed, wrecking ecosystems and putting rare endemic species at risk.
  • Carbon footprint: Ukraine estimates the emissions from Russia’s invasion to be roughly around 33 million tonnes of CO2 from the conflict and 23 million tonnes of CO2 from fires caused by the conflict. 
  • Nuclear radiation: Russian troops dug up deep trenches in the protected Chornobyl sanctuary, thereby releasing nuclear wastes and radiation.




  • Reduce military activities: This requires the parties involved in the conflict to agree to a ceasefire and pursue diplomatic solutions to resolve their differences.
  • Restore damaged ecosystems: This can include replanting forests, cleaning up polluted water sources, and rehabilitating habitats for wildlife.
  • Implement environmental regulations: The private sector should also be held accountable for any environmental damage caused by their activities.
  • Promote renewable energy: Governments should invest in renewable energy infrastructure, which will not only reduce carbon emissions but also create jobs and promote sustainable development.
  • Raise public awareness: This can include organizing protests, writing articles and reports, and using social media to raise awareness.
  • Provide support for affected communities: Governments and civil society organizations should provide support for these communities, including access to clean water, healthcare, and education.



Overall, mitigating the environmental costs of the Russia-Ukraine War requires a concerted effort from all stakeholders involved. By prioritizing the environment and taking concrete actions, we can reduce the long-term impact of the conflict on the planet and its inhabitants.