Environmental Effects of Conflicts and Wars
Conflicts faced by a country, be it international or civil, have effects on the environment. Most of the conflicts are caused by the scarcity of resources over which communities compete. This is evident in the conflicts faced by the farmers and pastoralists. Some of the nations fight over resources such as oil mines and water catchment areas. The growth of population at a faster rate than the resources leads to competition on the scarce resources. The pressure placed on the little available resources has a negative effect on the environment. The conflicts arising from the competition worsens the situation.
During wars, attacks on oil wells have a devastating effect on the environment. The dark smoke emitted covers the entire area for a long time hampering visibility and polluting the air. The ozone layer is depleted and in effect accelerating global warming. Spillage of oil into water masses poses a danger to marine life (Partow, 2007). The oil spillage also hampers the safety and availability of clean drinking water. Governments spent resources that they would otherwise channel towards other useful projects unnecessarily on cleaning the impact of oil spillage.
Poor management of the environment can also be a source of conflicts. The environmental resources keep on reducing and in the event increase the competition among the conflicting parties. This competition always results in environmental degradation due to overgrazing and overstocking in the case of pastoralists.
Direct effects on the environment include property destruction, the demolition of industries, chemical contamination, and the building of the necessary infrastructure for military purposes (Partow, 2007). The employment of the scorched earth policy by the military causes the destruction trees and any other plants in the vicinity. Clearance of the forests and vegetation has negative impacts on the biological life on both water and land.
The use of chemical, biological and chemical weaponry have long lasting effects on all living organisms. They have been linked to cause birth defects and cancer as a result of being exposed directly to depleted uranium or contaminated equipment. Individuals exposed to it run a risk for lung cancer and kidney damage. Many governments set aside huge amounts of resources to treat cancer and other uranium related diseases.
Destruction of infrastructural facilities like sewerage systems and water pipes can lead to bacterial contamination through bombing poses a danger to public health and safety. Land mines, lack of water, and the passing of heavy military vehicle through agricultural land render the area unproductive. Barren land and unproductively hampers food production. This contributes directly to scarce supply of food and famine in a previously productive area.
During wars, there is increased poaching and hunting, by both the military and civilians as a way of providing for themselves. Some individuals hunt and kill the animals for their economic value even though the practice is illegal. Such activities lead to the extinction of rare animals from the face of the earth. Lack of proper measures to protect animals and in keeping the situation in check leads to loss of rare wildlife treasures.
The United Nations Environmental Program has been actively involved in trying to solve these problems. It has come up with measures and procedures to follow in a bid to mitigate the risks faced during the conflict (Partow, 2007). This includes securing of the contaminated materials that could pose a danger. It also avails technical knowhow to nations and nongovernmental organizations.
Partow, H. (2007). Environmental impact of wars and conflicts, chapter 12
Risen, C. ( 2010, January/February). washingtonmonthly. Retrieved from The Environmental Consequences of War: http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2010/1001.risen.html