A new interactive map is documenting the most serious cases of damage to nature as a result of Russia’s latest invasion of Ukraine, which happened one year ago on Friday (24 Feb).
They include wildfires caused by missile strikes, toxic gases from explosions and soil and water pollution from fragments of shells.
The Environmental Damage Map is based on almost 900 reports being investigated by the Ukrainian organisation Ecoaction.
Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) has plotted 30 of the most serious cases on the map, which it was able to verify with satellite imagery.
The map includes descriptions and satellite imagery of each verified case and is freely available online (click here to see it).
It illustrates how Russia’s invasion is decimating nature in Ukraine: land and habitats have been damaged, missile strikes have caused wildfires, and fires at industrial sites have polluted the air, soil, and water.
‘We have all seen the devastating human suffering caused by this war, but the environmental damage can be less obvious. Nature recovery is an important part of the discussion about Ukraine’s future and it will require tools, expertise, and commitment, as well as significant funds. Those funds should be allocated already, not when the war is finished.
‘It is complicated to map the damage caused by the war in Ukraine: much of the liberated territory is thought to be full of mines and other explosives, while Russian forces still occupy parts of the country, making data collection a challenge in those areas.’
Campaigner with Greenpeace CEE in Kyiv
Rockets and artillery are one of the most common causes of destruction. They create a cocktail of chemical compounds that oxidise when they explode and are released into the atmosphere.
The main ones – carbon dioxide and water vapour – are not toxic but are climate change contributors. Sulphur and nitrogen oxides cause acid rain, which can harm humans and other mammals as well as birds, plants and water sources.
Metal fragments of shells are also unsafe for the environment. Ammunition cases often contain sulphur and copper that can get into the soil and leach into underground waters, eventually penetrating food chains and impacting humans and animals.
‘War affects our nature just as badly as our people and our infrastructure. However, this damage remains unseen and mostly ignored, for the environment is the silent victim. We want to be its voice so everyone is aware of the environmental consequences of the Russian war and so the restoration of nature is included in Ukraine`s recovery plans.
‘After the war is over, we will feel the negative impact of the war on the environment for a long time. The Ukrainian government promises to rebuild our homeland – and the environment is part of what has to be rebuilt.’
Spokesperson for Ecoaction
Greenpeace and Ecoaction are calling for nature restoration to run in parallel with the reconstruction of towns in Ukraine.
They are bringing these cases to the attention of both the Ukrainian government and the European Commission’s Donor Coordination Platform, and demanding mechanisms and funds to restore nature in Ukraine.
Greenpeace also encourages support for Ukrainian NGOs that work on nature restoration and monitoring impact on the ground.