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Ukraine war’s environmental toll to take years to clean up

By SAM MEDNICK – Associated Press

DEMYDIV, Ukraine (AP) – Olga Lehan’s dwelling close to the Irpin River was flooded as Ukraine destroyed a dam to forestall Russian forces from storming the capital Kyiv simply days after the battle started. Weeks later, the water from her faucet turned brown from air pollution.

“It was undrinkable,” she stated of the faucet water in her village of Demydiv, about 40 kilometers north of Kyiv on the Dnieper tributary.

Visibly upset, the 71-year-old, strolling by her home, pointed to the spot the place the floods in March moldy her kitchen, drained her effectively and ruined her backyard.

Environmental harm from the 8-month-old battle with Russia is rising in giant elements of the nation, specialists warn of long-term penalties. Moscow’s assaults on tank farms have launched toxins into the air and groundwater that threaten biodiversity, local weather stability and public well being.

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Because of the battle, greater than 6 million Ukrainians have little or no entry to clean water, and greater than 280,000 hectares of forest have been destroyed or minimize down, in accordance to the World Wildlife Fund. It has triggered greater than $37 billion in environmental harm, in accordance to the Audit Chamber, a nationwide nongovernmental group.

“This air pollution attributable to battle won’t go away. It could have to be solved by our descendants to plant forests or clean up the polluted rivers,” said Dmytro Averin, an environmental expert at Zoi Environment Network, a non-profit organization based in Switzerland.

While the hardest-hit areas are in the industrial eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, where fighting between government forces and pro-Russian separatists has been ongoing since 2014, the damage has spread elsewhere.

“In addition to casualties in fight, battle can also be hell for folks’s well being, each bodily and psychological,” said Rick Steiner, a US environmental scientist who advised the Lebanese government on environmental issues arising from a month-long war between that country and Israel surrendered in 2006.

The health effects of contaminated water and exposure to toxins released by conflict “can take years to manifest,” he said.

After the flood in Demydiv, local residents said their tap water became cloudy, tasted funny and left a film on pots and pans after boiling. The village was under Moscow control until April, when Russian troops retreated after failing to capture the capital.

Ukrainian authorities then began bringing in fresh water, but deliveries stopped in October when the tanker broke down and residents were forced to drink the dirty water again, they said.

“We haven’t any different choice. We do not have cash to purchase bottles,” Iryna Stetcenko told The Associated Press. Her family has diarrhea and she is worried about the health of her two teenagers, she said.

In May, the government took water samples but the results have not yet been made public, said Vyacheslav Muga, the former acting head of the local government’s water service. The Food Safety and Consumer Protection Agency in Kyiv has not yet responded to an AP request for the results.

However, reports from other environmental groups have shown the effects of the war.

In recent weeks, Russia has targeted key infrastructure such as power plants and waterworks. But as early as July, the UN Environment Agency warned of significant damage to the water infrastructure, including pumping stations, sewage treatment plants and sewage treatment plants.

A forthcoming paper from the Conflict and Environment Observatory, a UK charity, and the Zoi Environment Network found evidence of pollution at a pond after a Russian missile hit a fuel depot in the town of Kalynivka some 30 kilometers away (about 18 miles) southwest of Kyiv.

The pond, which was used for both recreation and fish farming, had a high concentration of fuel oil and dead fish on the surface – apparently from oil that had seeped into the water. A copy of the report was seen by the AP.

Nitrogen dioxide released from burning fossil fuels increased in areas west and southwest of Kyiv, according to an April report from REACH, a humanitarian research initiative that tracks information in areas hit by crises, disasters and displacement. Direct exposure can cause skin irritation and burns, while chronic exposure can cause respiratory illness and damage vegetation, the report said.

The agricultural sector of Ukraine, an important part of the Ukrainian economy, is also affected. Fires have damaged crops and livestock, burned thousands of hectares of forest and prevented farmers from completing the harvest, said Serhiy Zibtsev, a forestry professor at Ukraine’s National University of Life and Environmental Sciences.

“The fires are so huge,” he said, adding that the farmers “misplaced the whole lot they harvested for the winter.”

The government in Kyiv is providing help where it can.

In Demydiv and nearby villages, flood victims received the equivalent of $540 each, said Liliia Kalashnikovel, deputy chief of the nearby town of Dymer. She said the government will do everything it can to prevent long-term environmental impacts, but she didn’t say how.

Governments have a duty to minimize environmental risks to populations, especially during war, said Doug Weir, research and policy director for the Conflict and Environment Observatory, a UK-based monitoring organization.

Some Ukrainians have already lost hope.

“I really feel depressed – there’s water throughout and below my home,” said Tatiana Samoilenko from Demydiv. “I do not see that a lot will change sooner or later.”

Follow AP’s protection of the battle in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This materials will not be revealed, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed with out permission.

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