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Two internationally important wetlands in Ukraine almost destroyed

Over one-fifth of Ukraine’s protected natural areas, spanning 120,000 km2, have suffered damage due to Russia’s invasion.The scale almost equals the size of England.
Dzharylhach National Nature Park. Credit: Nature Reserve Fund of Ukraine
Two internationally important wetlands in Ukraine almost destroyed

Over 20% of Ukraine’s protected natural areas have been impacted by Russia’s war against Ukraine, the World Wide Fund for Nature in Ukraine reported. This equates to around 120,000 km2 affected, which is comparable to the size of England (130,000 km2)

Today, 6 November is the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict, the WWF said that “the war is having a devastating effect on the environment, and its consequences may be felt not only by us but also by future generations. Military activities are leading to the deterioration of ecosystems and natural resources even after they cease, impacting the prosperity of the state and society.”

As a result of Russia’s armed aggression, 812 natural protected areas totalling 900,000 hectares have been affected. Nearly 3 million hectares of Emerald Network sites, 160 territories that are part of Europe’s conservation network protected under EU and Council of Europe law, are under threat of destruction. 17 internationally important wetlands protected under the Ramsar Convention are at risk due to their unique biodiversity.

In addition, 514 protected areas totalling 800,000 hectares remain occupied. Two internationally important wetlands, the Wetlands of ” Seven Beacons Floodplain” and “Big and Small Kuchuhury Archipelago,” have been practically destroyed.

Wetlands of Seven Beacons Floodplain. Credit:
Nature Reserve Fund of Ukraine
Big and Small Kuchuhury Archipelago. Credit: Nature Reserve Fund of Ukraine

The entire 1588-hectare protected zone of the Dzharylhach National Park, the most valuable steppe area, has been annihilated.

Habitats of flora and fauna listed in the Red Book of Ukraine and the European Red List of Threatened Species have also been damaged. The WWF in Ukraine highlighted that this list and scale of losses could increase since fighting is still ongoing in parts of Ukraine while other areas remain occupied or await demining.

In early October, Ukraine’s prosecutors recorded more than 265 Russian war crimes against the environment and 14 cases of ecocide, Borys Indychenko, Head of the Environmental Prosecutor’s Office, said at the conference, dedicated to the environment, in Rome.

The largest of these was the explosion of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant dam on June 23. The explosion caused the flooding of 80 settlements on the territory of about 610 square kilometres of land, the death of 33 people and an extremely destructive impact on the environment of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the press service of the Ministry of Reintegration reported that Russia has committed 2,500 environmental crimes since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. According to the Ministry of Reintegration, each day of the war costs Ukraine approximately 120 million euros (over $127) in damages. According to Ukraine’s Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources, Ruslan Strilets, the damage caused by Russians to Ukraine’s environment increased five-fold over the year, reaching UAH 2 trillion or about $55 billion.

In addition, the Ukrainian NGO “Forest Initiatives and Society” estimated the damage caused by Russians to Ukrainian forests over the past year at $4 billion.

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