Environmental effects of conflict Research Paper
Although there are a myriad of motivations for going to war, wars have serious repercussions that need reconsideration before any country declares war against another country. In most cases, the damage done by war is so extensive that the reasons for declaring the war itself are not justified.
For instance, the attack by America on the Hiroshima and Nagasaki towns of Japan has affected a number of generations of people living there. There are many cases of cancers in these areas, and the effect of the bombing was so great that, decades later, children are still born with deformities due to the effects of gene mutations caused by the bombings. These effects are experienced after wars, regardless of the number of people who died in the war itself and the infrastructure that was destroyed during the war.
With this kind of discussion, it is apparent that the effects of war are far reaching, and they have adverse effects on all realms of a countrys welfare. That is, the country is affected in terms of its economy, health, international relations, etc. Of more concern, and the reason why the effects of war remain for centuries is the fact that all wars have adverse effects on the environment, which in turn affects several aspects of the people living in the affected environment.
For instance, the use of nuclear bombs in wars may have effects on both the environment of the attacker and the attacked parties in the war. This reasoning is from the fact that when a country is attacked with an atomic bomb, high volumes of radioactive materials are left in its atmosphere for a period that is almost equivalent to the age of the earth. These materials have adverse effects on the population and they can be easily transported by water and the wind to other parts of the globe.
On the other hand, people living in the vicinity of nuclear plants in the country that is attacking its enemy will also be exposed to stray radiation. This is because securing the environment, around a nuclear plant, against radioactive materials is a difficult task, and in most cases, mistakes are committed. This makes people living close to radiation plants susceptible to radioactive pollution, leading to development of respiratory problems, cancers, and other health problems.
As discussed in the introduction, wars have profound environmental effects that last for decades, or even centuries. A battlefield is clearly distinguishable from other regions that have not been affected by war. This is to say that the environment surrounding a battlefield is different from other environments, and thus it depicts the activities that once took place in it.
The worst environmental damage, with regard to the activities of war, has, perhaps, been caused by the manufacture and testing of weapons of mass destruction like the nuclear bomb. The latter is itself a complex mixture of environmental contaminants. In all countries that have ever attempted to develop the nuclear bomb, there is usually a sub-set of the population, especially those living near the nuclear plants, developing complicated medical problems.
This is usually due to the pollution of the environment with nuclear radiations. In most cases, the maintenance of nuclear installations is inadequate, making the facilities dangerous to the surrounding environment. Effluents from nuclear plants have thus become a persistent global problem that creates an environmental disaster (Arkin, 1991).
This is due to the toxic chemicals and poisonous substances produced in the process of producing the weapons. The aforementioned chemicals and substances are carried in water, air or even ocean currents, and thus they around the globe. In any place they reach, the chemicals cause havoc to plants, animals, and even the earth itself. When human beings are exposed to nuclear substances, they experience adverse health effects.
These effects include development of cancer, development of malformed fetuses or even miscarriages, congenital disorders, tumors, high infant mortality, and other harmful and life shortening disorders (Mannion, 2003). In any war, the statistics of these health problems in affected areas is always on the rise. Let us now have a case study in which we study the environmental effects of the Iran war, and the efforts that were made, and are still being made to protect the environment in the places involved.
Asdiscussed above, besides the damage on infrastructure and the deaths and suffering of people that is usually described by the cynical war term collateral damage (Barnaby, 2006, p. 27), each war that occurs have far reaching effects on the environment. The effect of war on an environment depends on a number of factors.
Most of these factors are related with the intricate details of the war and the nature of the environment in which the war takes place. When the main activities of a given war are over, it is possible to uncover the effects that the war has had on the environment. For instance, the main activities of the combat in the Iraq war are over now, and that the environmental effects that the war caused can be assessed.
This is possible through analysis of the situation on the ground and comparing the status quo with the previous condition of the battleground. Neither of the stated activities has, as yet, occurred and thus an assessment can only be possible through expert initial observation. Due to the similarity in the landscape of Iraq and some parts of the gulf, some effects of the Iraq war are similar to the effects of the gulf war.
One such similarity is the occurrence of sandstorms during both wars. This effect was due to the nature of the landscape in the gulf. The ground is composed mostly of clay that is baked together with sand by the heat of the desert. The same case was true in Iraq. In fact, the sandstorms in Iraq were so intense that the locals described them as sent by Allah against the aggressors (Mirkarimi, 1992, p. 24) during the start of the war.
Thus the occurrence of the sandstorms was triggered by heavy military vehicles that served to crush the crust, letting loose the massive sand beneath the crust. Explosions of bombs also made the crushing of the crust possible exposing the sand. There were also mines that exploded to break the crust, and the digging of the ground to build walls and trenches for .
After the crust was broken, the sand beneath it was exposed to the desert wind that created the sandstorms. During the first Gulf war, the effects of these sandstorms were pronounced as the sand rolled as high as ten meters and as wide as far as ten kilometers. This sand then covered buildings and roads making transportation a nightmare and creating health and environmental problems in the surrounding areas like Southwestern Iraq, Saudi Arabia and even Kuwait. This problem persisted for close to a decade.
The sandstorms in Iraq were unusually intense. This can be attributed to the same reasons as in the Gulf war. However, the effects of in the Iraq war were more pronounced due to the fact that Iraq has substantially more agricultural activities than Kuwait.
Thus in Iraq, with a large number of farmers operating in marginal lands, the sandstorms act as a catalyst for unsustainable agriculture since the farmers face enough problems related to water shortages and salt intrusions. This, in turn, acts as a threat to the people living in the affected districts because a threat to the agricultural activities of the region is a threat to the availability of foodstuffs.
Another major problem that characterized the Iraq war is the fact that the parties who were privy to the war were using substances that are capable of depleting the . Examples of such substances include freons and halons.
It is a common habit to have the airplanes used in war having their fuel mixed with halogenated fire retardants. This causes a lot of damage to the o-zone layer in the stratosphere. According to reports, there were between 60 and 80,000 combat missions in the war, and thus thousands of tons of halons, an ozone-depleting substance, were released.
Freon-based fuel is also an issue as it is used in wars to hide war planes. This is an issue of grave concern especially because of the adoption of the Montreal Protocol on the Protection of the Ozone Layer (Toukan, 1999, p. 7). Considering estimations during the negotiations for adoption of the Montreal Protocol, the emissions of the Iraq war can be equated to the emissions expected from the of ozone-depleting substances.
The Iraq war was also characterized by burning of oil fields, which was meant to obscure targets from air strikes. Considering the volume of the emissions from these oil fields on a global point of view, they can be regarded as insignificant. However, it is apparent that the emissions from the burning oil fields had adverse effects on the health of the combatants and even the local inhabitants. Metals could also have been used during the burning of oil. This increases pollution to the environment.
As Kuwait was engaged in war, Iraq pumped oil to the Gulf of Persia. This resulted into an oil spill of a great magnitude. Although such an occurrence was not experienced in the Iraq war, the spill during the war in Kuwait had a lot of environmental effects worth mentioning in this discussion. The oil, together with chemicals from industry bombings polluted rivers, leading to loss of a substantial amount of biodiversity. Similar occurrences that were experienced in Iraq were the small-scale bombing of oil fields and some industries.
Although the effects of these military activities were not far-reaching, their environmental effects cannot be ignored. Chemicals released from industry bombings, and pollutants released from the environment creating harsh living conditions for locals, and also making the region lose a substantial amount of biodiversity. This experience is common to all wars including the war in Vietnam (Gochfeld, 2001).
Since much information about the intricacies of the military activities that took place in Iraq has not been released to the public, the public is left to speculate the activities that took place in the war and gauge their effects on the environment based on previous wars. This is why a big part of this discussion makes references to other wars.
As much as the discussion is based on other wars, the information is expected to be true because most military activities are more or less the same. For instance, when the first Gulf war started, it was discovered that the military tanks that were built by the Iraqis and the Soviets were made using PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls) in their hydraulic systems (Bakan, 1991, p. 370).
These were meant to hide the tanks from enemy detectors. They thus served the same purpose as the aforementioned halons that were used on combat airplanes. After the tanks were destroyed, the PCBs were leaked into the ground polluting it. It is not known for sure how many Iraq tanks got destroyed during the war. However, it is obvious that some of these tanks were destroyed during the war that lasted for a number of years. The same pollution of the ground is therefore expected to be an effect of the Iraq war on the environment.
Lastly, virtually all the ammunition that is used in wars like the war in Iraq is composed of nitrogen compounds. The ammunition may explode during the war, or it may fail to explode. Either way, the compounds used to make this ammunition have a lot of environmental effects (Leaning, 2005).
They therefore affect the health of human population, and also harm the ecosystem of the regions where the war occurs. The Iraq war was no exception and thus a good number of ammunition with nitrogen compounds were used. This has had adverse effects on the human population and the ecosystems in Iraq.
The discussed effects of the war in Iraq are just but initial stipulations of the expected effects of the war. This is because they are based on conceivability of environmental effects, and most of the real effects of the Iraq war are yet to be experienced.
Other issues that may arise with time as effects of the Iraq war include the effects of the water treatment facilities, and wastewater infrastructure that were destroyed during the war. There is also the possibility of contamination of ground water which could cause a lot of problems to the people living within the affected environment.
Another common and risky phenomenon is the use of antitank missiles made from depleted uranium. The latter is known to be a highly radioactive material, and thus the use of depleted uranium is likely to cause health problems to the people who come in contact with the remains of the same. Common health problems caused by this phenomenon are skin cancers and other forms of cancer (Hoffman, 1999, p. 11).
Currently, a precise estimation of the effects that the Iraq war has had, and will continue to have on the environment is nearly impossible. However, the damage on the environment has already been made, and there is a need for estimation of the environmental effects of the war, and anticipation of possible future environmental effects of the war.
This will make the government of Iraq prepare for possible problems and be able to handle them. It is thus apparent that the future government of Iraq will incur a huge cost related to the restoration of its environment after destruction by the war. This may take such a government a couple of years, or even decades.
Environmental protection efforts in the aftermath of Iraq war
The Iraq war has just ended, and thus not much has been done in an effort to mitigate the damage that has occurred in the environment due to the war. However, some basic measures have been taken in a bid to reduce the environmental effects of the Iraq war. Among the effort being taken by the Iraq government to contain some of the environmental effects of the war include the governments intervention in the sewer system problem.
As stated in the discussion above, the war in Iraq was characterized with massive explosions that broke the sewer system, making sewage flow into rivers. This has led to contamination of water and the environment, which has seen the Iraq population living in an environment that makes them prone to waterborne diseases like cholera and typhoid. The Iraq government has been employing efforts in a bid to restore the sewage and water infrastructure that was destroyed by the war (Barnaby, 2006).
Also among the efforts being taken to reduce the environmental effects of the Iraq war is the cleaning of underground water contaminated by burning oil wells. The underground water was contaminated by oil wells that burned for periods lasting as long as a year, since once the wells were set ablaze extinguishing the fire was a nightmare.
This is because, in order to extinguish the oil fires, there was a need for massive amounts of water, and the wells needed to be close to an airport in order for heavy machines to gain access to the well. The cost for cleaning the underground water is very high, in the tunes of tens of billions of dollars and thus the government of Iraq has been unable to clean them (Barnaby, 2006). However, efforts are being made to come up with a holistic plan to clean the underground water, and therefore make clean water accessible to the people of Iraq.
As it is expected to be the case, the bombing and use of landmines by Iraq enemies left some landmines in the Iraq desert. These are very dangerous environmental hazards that need urgent detonation. The Iraq government must come up with a plan for detonating the landmines and the bombs in order to secure the Iraq citizens. This will ensure that no more direct deaths occur as a result of weapons that were being used in the Iraq war.
As evidenced in the discussion above, the Iraq war had numerous repercussions. The war cost the U.S. government an approximate $ 700 billion. Thousands of American citizens died in the war while at least four times as many American people succumbed to injuries from the war. Tens of thousands of American people have been emotionally affected by the war by either losing their loved ones to the war or even having family members, workmates or even friends injured in the war (Garcia, 2004).
The war also had a myriad of environmental effects that have been discussed above. For instance, Iraq militants burned oil wells leading not only to reduction of oil levels in the country but also leading to enormous smokes that polluted the environment. The burning of the oil wells also led to pollution of underground water, which is very unfortunate since Iraq is known to have problems accessing clean water.
The aircraft used in the war were fuelled with gas that was contaminated with materials that are capable of depleting the ozone layer. There were also radioactive materials like uranium whose remains have adverse environmental effects. The war also made desert sand loose due to the use of heavy military vehicles.
This has led to the increase in the frequency and intensity of sandstorms in Iraq. Some bombs and mines were left in the battleground, posing an environmental risk to the people living in Iraq. The infrastructure for sewer disposal was also damaged leading to contamination of water and pollution of the environment. This has led to an increase in waterborne diseases. These are just a few of the environmental effects that resulted from the Iraq war.
From the discussion above, it is clear that wars have adverse effects on the warring countries, and the world at large. This is especially the case when the involved countries use nuclear weapons in the war. As discussed, depleted uranium takes billions of years before it clears from the atmosphere.
This is actually its half life. It therefore follows that, countries which use nuclear weapons releasing uranium to the atmosphere harm the environment for a period that is more or less the age of the earth. As mentioned above, the depleted uranium can be easily transported by wind and water to other parts of the globe. This implies that, countries that are located far away from the war will also be affected by the war.
This, therefore, calls for a concerted effort of all members of the international community to ensure that wars are strictly discouraged. There is also the need for the international community to monitor the military activities of countries to ensure that the production of weapons of mass destruction is discouraged. This will serve to discourage war since, without the military muscles, few countries will be willing to declare war upon other countries.
Concerning the aftermath of the war in Iraq, there is need for reconstruction in the country to ensure that the damaged infrastructure of the country is restored. This is especially necessary for infrastructure whose damage has resulted to environmental problems like the damaged sewer systems, and the contaminated underground water. Donors should support Iraq with the necessary aid so that it recovers from the effects of the war and utilizes its economic potential. For instance, there is need for oil exploitation.