It has become common knowledge that violent conflicts and wars can be disastrous. But the question is to whom and to what extent such conflicts are disastrous. In order words, it suffices to ask who the victims of armed conflict are. Armed conflict leads to loss of lives, properties, and means of livelihood, destruction of infrastructure, and disruption in political systems and processes etc.
One of the biggest, (yet most overlooked) victim of armed conflict is the environment. The environment is critical to human existence, and where the environment is lacking in the adequate elements needed for human inhabitation, then human existence is threatened. The environmental effects of conflict are generally categorized as direct or indirect.
Direct impacts relate to those whose occurrence may be physically linked to military action and which typically arise within the immediate short-term, whereas indirect impacts are those that can be reliably attributed to the conflict but they usually tangle with many factors and only fully manifest themselves in the longer term.
Deliberate destruction of natural resources, environmental pollution from bombing of industrial facilities, and military debris and demolition trash from targeted infrastructure are all examples of direct repercussions.
Indirect, on the other hand, when compared to long-term deforestation patterns, the environmental footprint of displaced people is enormous. For example, the indirect effect of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagazaki in Japan was that the both cities could no longer live up to their economic capacity as people’s means of livelihood were lost, the soil became contaminated and the water become unsuitable for human consumption therefore rendering a large population of the city homeless and poor.
In Sub-Sharan Africa, the effect of armed conflict on the environment cannot be overemphasized. In Northern Nigeria for instance, where there is an ongoing insurgency, residents of communities in some cases are forced to relocate to designated refugee camps called ‘Internal Displaced Persons (IDP) camps.’
Armed Conflict and Water Pollution
One consequence of conflict is water degradation. The Gulf War in January and February 1991, among the many battles fought since the Vietnam War, demonstrates how war and industrial technology can be used to bring about natural demolition across the board. For instance, around 10 million barrels of Kuwaiti oil were imported into Iraqi waters along a 1500-kilometer stretch, at a cost of almost 1 billion dollars to tidy up brought about extraordinary worry to water bodies which officially experienced many years of mishandling. A noteworthy groundwater aquifer, two fifths of Kuwait’s whole freshwater hold, stays sullied right up till today.
Other natural consequences of the Gulf War of 1991 included the destruction of sewage treatment plants in Kuwait, resulting in the discharge of more than 50,000 cubic meters of crude sewage into Kuwait Bay on a regular basis.
Chechnya’s water supply has been severely impacted by the 1994–1996 battle between Russian military and Chechen guerilla warriors. Oil flowed into streams in the amount of 20,000 tons. Waterways have become so polluted that there is growing concern that pollution from them will spread to the Caspian Sea. Water bodies were contaminated as a result of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
It is estimated that between 500,000 and 1 million people died in the space of three months. This resulted in an acute body disposal catastrophe. Appropriate entombments were impractical, so bodies were thrown into mass graves or, more often than not, allowed to decompose in the open. Various bodies were dumped in rivers and lakes, while others died from suffocation while attempting to cross flooded streams and lakes, polluting the water.
While most of Sierra Leone’s infrastructure was damaged and neglected during the civil war, the lack of repair of the water system has been particularly detrimental. In their systematic assault of local villages around the country, Revolutionary United Front (RUF) fighters routinely targeted water holding tanks, wells, and other water-related infrastructure.
This is a flagrant violation of Article 14 of the Geneva Conventions’ Additional Protocol II, which protects drinking water facilities and supplies, as well as irrigation works. Because there is essentially no irrigation currently taking place outside of minor cultivation of wetland valleys, which does not require extra infrastructure, these water facility destructions hampered other activities throughout the dry season. The destruction of water installations and wells is an obvious violation of the rule protecting items that are essential for civilian survival.
Armed Conflict and Air Pollution
Conflict has an exceptional role in exacerbating air pollution. The influence of hostilities on the environment, especially on air pollution, starts with the improvement and trying out of all factors associated to army weapons, hardware and armament, and the necessary coaching in its use. For instance in World War I and World War II, considerable testing of inflammable bombs used to be made to produce the firestorms.
The consequences of the by-products of excessive fire on the air exceptional have been made apparent in the World Trade Centre incident, where air pollution from the burning of the constructions and their contents blanketed toxic metals, asbestos, dioxins, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, Polychlorinated Biphenyls and hydrochloric acid. Other varieties of chemical battle covered the development of specific dioxins such as Agent Orange which was used in the hostilities in Vietnam.
It used to be used as a defoliant and used to be delivered by using plane, as a device of warfare and not necessarily applied as a weapon. However, it proved very positive as a pollutant. With the high diploma of mechanization of the military, giant amounts of fossil fuels are used as a result. Fossil fuels are a predominant contributor to international warming and local weather exchange and it one of the troubles of increasing concern.
The United States Department of Defense is a government body with the absolute best use of fossil fuel in the world. The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan have had a serious effect on the herbal environments of these countries, in precise on air pollution. Military motors devour petroleum-based fuels at an extremely excessive rate, with the motors used in the combat zones having produced many lots of hundreds of tons of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons and sulfur dioxide in addition to CO2.