Environmental experts and activists warn that the war in Ukraine will likely have long-lasting effects to Ukraine's urban, agricultural and industrial areas.

More than two thousand civilians have died, out of which more than 200 are children, since Russia's military attack on Ukraine as of April 26, 2022. 

A further 7.1 million others are displaced, and four million have fled Ukraine, but the war's brutal human cost and consequences do not end there. 

An environmental nightmare is taking place in Ukraine as pollutants released by the continuing Russian bombing could take years to clean up. 

On April 14, the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Ukraine said that since the beginning of the Russian attack on Ukraine, the Russian military had fired more than 1,500 missiles into Ukraine, and more than 5,000 units of Russian military equipment of various types have been destroyed. 

As of April 8, the total weight of all destroyed Russian equipment is about 85,000 tons. Recycling military scrap metal is a complex and time-consuming process which could take decades to rid.

Most parts of eastern Ukraine, where much of the conflict has occurred, have petroleum refineries and chemical plants. 

And with the attacks and missiles striking those refineries, chemical plants and ammonia pipelines, the nation's air, water and soil have been poisoned. 

The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine, jointly with local NGOs, recorded 111 attacks against industrial sites, energy plants, water stations, gas pipelines and unique natural resources. 

"During the first month of the war, over 1,100 missiles were launched on the territory of Ukraine, and about 4,000 units of military equipment of various types were destroyed," says Yevhenia Zasiadko, the head of Ecoaction. 

"This will lead to the accumulation of carcinogenic waste as spilt fuel from exploded missiles contaminates the soil and groundwater with chemicals and heavy metals."

Beyond this, there are enormous impacts on agricultural lands because of large-scale mining by Russian troops. 

As a result, vast areas of arable land in Ukraine can no longer be used for agriculture. 

Residents in many other cities, towns and villages across Ukraine say the war has polluted their air, water and soil. For example, in Kiev, the air quality has decreased due to the heaviest fighting that took place in March.

At the time, residents were asked not to open their windows, as pollutant concentration in the air was 27.8 times higher than the World Health Organization's guidelines, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Also, experts warn that exposure to heavy metals and toxic gasses released by particulates from explosions, fires and building collapses may cause longer-term health threats like the risk of cancer and respiratory ailments, not just in Ukraine but also beyond its borders. 

"The implications of this war will be long-standing, it will take many years for those who have been displaced to overcome the negative environmental and health impacts of war, not to mention the psychological scars," says Elizabeth Warn, Deputy Chief of Mission at IOM Ukraine.

"People returning to their homes after being displaced inside and outside Ukraine, will need to be provided with sustainable livelihoods, housing, jobs and health care to rebuild their lives and strengthen their resilience."

Considering these environmental issues, environmental advocates have labelled the impact an "ecocide". As a result, they are trying to bring international criminal charges against Russia, according to Ecoaction, a Ukrainian environmental advocacy group.

"Russia should pay for these crimes," said Evgenia Zasiadko, the head of the climate department at Ecoaction.

"Not only for the people who have been killed and harmed, not only for the infrastructure and cities, but also for the damage to the environment.

"My worst fear is that the damage will be so huge that we won't be able to rebuild," she said. 

Source: TRT World