After nearly one year, Russia’s invasion has inflicted more than $51 billion in environmental damage on Ukraine, according to the Ukrainian environment ministry.
The invasion, which began on February 24, 2022, has scattered wreckage across roughly 3,500 acres, with rockets and shells scorching some 150,000 acres of forests and plantations, which the ministry said could take decades to recover, even in the most optimistic scenario.
Some 687,000 tons of petrochemicals have burned as a result of shelling, while nearly 1,600 tons of pollutants have leaked into bodies of water. Hazardous chemicals have contaminated around 70 acres of soil. Water and soil pollution could make it temporarily impossible to grow crops in affected areas, the environment ministry said. Complicating matters further, some 15 percent of farmland in Ukraine has been littered with land mines.
Officials are concerned that a recent discharge from the Russian-controlled Kakhovka Reservoir could imperil the adjoining Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Water levels on the reservoir are now so low that the nuclear plant cannot resupply its cooling system. Currently, its cooling pond is sufficiently full, but if reservoir levels remain low, it could pose a major challenge to the plant.
Looking forward, environment minister Ruslan Strilets said that Ukraine, which is working toward joining the EU, will aim to reduce industrial pollution as part of its postwar rebuilding efforts. “Each destroyed facility will need to be rebuilt anew,” he said. “Even today, there is no doubt that postwar reconstruction should take into account modern green technologies according to EU standards.”
ALSO ON YALE E360
Collateral Damage: The Environmental Cost of the Ukraine War