Donbas on the brink of environmental catastrophe

War in the Donbas

The conflict in Eastern Ukraine is putting the environment under a tremendous amount of stress. According to an OSCE study, it’s only a matter of time before there’s an ecological catastrophe.

Chemical plants and steel mills are just some of the more than four thousand ticking ecological time bombs in the eastern Ukraine conflict zone. Since the beginning of Russian aggression, over half a thousand explosions, leaks, and other incidents have been recorded at these enterprises. Many of them could have catastrophic consequences.

“Donetsk and Luhansk regions were technologically dangerous even before the start of the military conflict. And the military aggression of Russia has caused and continues to cause serious damage to the environment, creates technology-related and environmental threats,” says Ostap Semerak, Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources of Ukraine.

Flooding in coal mines can have particularly devastating consequences. About four dozen coal-mining enterprises are currently at risk. Flooding can lead to cave-ins, collapse of surface building, and contamination of groundwater with radioactive waste. Rivers, soil, and reservoirs in the area are already showing an increased concentration of harmful substances.

“During the conflict, we have recorded more than three hundred cases of water supply disruptions. Also, there is an increase in the concentration of nitrogen and phosphorus in the rivers,@ says Dmytro Averyn, an expert.

The report data can be used, says the Ukrainian government, to bring Russia to justice in international courts.

“All the information that we have collected earlier is passed on to our colleagues from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, because this is the main agency that is working on our foreign strategy, including the strategy in international courts. We have passed the data on the annexed Crimea and the negative impact on the environment from Russia. We also support the participation of Ukrainian ecologists in the work of the Minsk Contact Group,” addas Semerak.

Ukrainian authorities together with international experts have developed a strategy to reduce the level of environmental risks in Donbas. However, to be successful, it requires a full, actual ceasefire.

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