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Monday, 7 November 2016


War Against the World: A Look Into the Environmental Impact of War.

“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people. ” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt

Through the course of time, there has been a metamorphosis in how war is fought. Humans have gone from using light wooden chariots in vast battlefields to 60-tonne tanks in congested streets. With every such paradigm shift, the critics of the war have devised relevant propaganda to depopularise it. From Mutually Assured Destruction to poverty and draining of resources, we’ve said it all. However, one of the most destructive facets of war which also happens to be the one that is least talked about – Its Environmental Impact – must urgently find its way into anti-war propaganda. 
The environmental impacts of war start right from the assembly line way before someone can shout “incoming”!  In 2015 the world managed a global defence trade of nearly a trillion dollars. That accounts for thousands of tanks, planes, and bullets one can’t even count. Such massive production of war inventory leads to the emissions of millions of units of toxic substances which are released into the air or water. The effects of such emissions are well known and result in global warming, the melting of ice caps and a slow contribution towards the apocalypse. The development of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons has added yet another nail in an already sealed coffin, that holds the survival of humanity.
Moving on to the battlefield, the M1 Abrams main battle tank of the U.S. army takes more gas just to power up than a normal car would use in a day’s work. The point to be made here is that military vehicles, vessels, and planes are fuel guzzling machines which cause harmful emissions like carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide apart from chlorofluorocarbons that feed ravenously on the ozone layer and lay a huge burden on natural resources. But far more harmful are the effects of the ammunition dropped in conflicts zones. During the Vietnam war America dropped a chemical substance known as Agent Orange on the Vietnamese jungles. The sole purpose of this concoction was to clear the forests to eradicate cover for the Vietcong. All the way from 1962 – 1971 Agent Orange was responsible for the destruction of nearly 15% of the total forest cover over Vietnam and lasting ailments on the indigenous wildlife and inhabitants.

Conventional bombs also generate massive bursts of heat when detonated. This explosion that burns at nearly three thousand degrees centigrade has the potential to annihilate flora and fauna. It also erodes the top layer of the soil which could take nearly 7000 years to regenerate. Further, all hell has broken lose since the eruption of the Middle Eastern crisis. The Gulf is the fuel barrel of the world. The entire war, people speculate, is for the oil. Burning of oil wells by retreating militants and stray bombs engulf the entire vicinity in a shroud of harmful discharge. Apart from causing air pollution, this results in respiratory problems, cancers and a wide range of life-threatening conditions. Lastly one of the most gruesome facts of war (and my strongest points) is the trail of decomposing bodies it leaves behind. Rotting human flesh not only results in bad order, it attracts various bacteria which are in turn responsible for the spreading of epidemics and diseases that ruin the local environment.
After staying silent for nearly half a century the global community has finally started to acknowledge the adverse environmental impacts of armed conflict. The United Nation Environment Programme has begun studying the impacts in places of crisis like Syria. Though only a few surveys have been taken up due to extensive conflict, initial reports reveal massive degradation of the already scarce agricultural land. Further UNEP has observed, due to the bombing that has quite literally flattened cities like Aleppo, residents face severe respiratory problems due to constant dust arising from the debris and smoke. Further Vice News featured a video that shows little children in war-torn Syria playing in a bomb crater filled with water from a damaged sewer pipe. This leads me to believe that bombing has damaged the city’s underground plumbing, thus infecting ground water and drinking water pipes. However, the true extent of damage can only be judged when the dust from the falling bombs settles and full-scale studies are initiated.
Through resolution 56/4, the United Nations declared November 6th of every year as The International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict. Sadly, this proclamation is one of the biggest among a few steps taken by the U.N. in furtherance of curbing environmental impacts of war. Though some principals of international human rights laws and conventions such as UN Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Use of Environmental Modification Techniques (ENMOD) (1976) protect the environment from the harmful impacts of war, no comprehensive legal framework exists. There is an urgent need for a universally accepted legislation that lays down liability for causing degradation and prohibits all wrongful acts.

Thus, to conclude I would say that an environmental stance should be opted by the global community to de-popularise war. It’s easier said than done, but if a kid can burn fewer crackers on Diwali with a little push, I’m sure states can choose to drop fewer bombs as well. That would be a start.

About the Author:

Nazeer U. Khan, is a 5th year BBA.LLB. student from the Faculty of Law, IFHE. He is holds high interest for the legality of armed conflict and is a staunch pacifist.


David M. Ryan said...

Nice blog

Dent said...

The surroundings in which we live all living and non living materials are called our environment. The factors or pollutants which cause disturbance in natural environment are called pollution. Ecosystem (The natural process of producers and consumers) is destroyed due to some harmful human activities is called Pollution.

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