Collateral damage estimates and the acceptability of attacks on industrial sites

Collateral damage estimates and the acceptability of attacks on industrial sites

The deliberate or inadvertent damage or destruction of industrial facilities during conflict has the potential to cause severe environmental damage and create acute and long-term risks to civilians. Can such attacks ever be justified, particularly when the consequences of attacks may be difficult to anticipate with any degree of certainty? Global population growth, and with it increasing levels of industrialisation, is increasing the likelihood that in any given conflict, fighting may occur in areas containing industrial infrastructure. Consequently, the likelihood of damage to such sites is increasing. Industrial sites whose […]

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Judging the civilian and environmental risks of cyber warfare

Judging the civilian and environmental risks of cyber warfare

How much of a threat do cyber attacks on industrial infrastructure pose to civilians and the environment? More to the point, how do we judge the environmental acceptability of new forms of warfare, or current practices for that matter? Doug Weir takes a look. During our first legal workshop on toxic remnants of war in 2012, one attendee questioned how the legality of a cyber attack on an industrial facility that caused a damaging chemical release would be dealt with. In common with others present, we didn’t have a clear […]

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The Ukraine conflict’s legacy of environmental damage and pollutants

The Ukraine conflict’s legacy of environmental damage and pollutants

One year after violent conflict began, information is now emerging on the specific environmental impact of war in Ukraine’s highly industrialised Donbas region. Although obtaining accurate data is difficult, indications are that the conflict has resulted in a number of civilian health risks, and potentially long-term damage to its environment. In order to mitigate these long-term risks, international and domestic agencies will have to find ways to coordinate their efforts on documenting, assessing and addressing the damage. The environmental legacy of conflict and military activities is rarely prioritised in post-conflict […]

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Iraq’s continuing struggle with conflict pollution

Iraq’s continuing struggle with conflict pollution

While Iraq is still recovering from the environmental impact of both Gulf wars, it now faces new environmental problems caused by the current conflict against the Islamic State. Since the uprising began in June 2014, fierce battles have taken place in and around cities and industrial areas, affecting the already precarious environmental situation. Wim Zwijnenburg considers the risks and response. Heavy fighting in and around the Baiji oil refinery, and attacks on other industrial installation have led to the release of a range of hazardous substances into the environment, affecting soil and […]

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The environmental consequences of targeting Syria’s oil refineries

The environmental consequences of targeting Syria’s oil refineries

On the 25th September, the US-led coalition conducting airstrikes in Syria began targeting oil refineries under the control of militants from Islamic State (IS). The TRWP has previously questioned the wisdom of targeting oil infrastructure, incidents that have the potential to generate significant environmental contamination. Beyond localised pollution, the targeting of Syria’s refineries may result in further indirect harm to communities and the environment in oil producing areas through encouraging polluting micro-refineries. The initial round of airstrikes saw 12 small refineries targeted. Each was a modular refinery; these are built […]

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Attacks on oil infrastructure and the limits of environmental protection during conflict

Attacks on oil infrastructure and the limits of environmental protection during conflict

Recent fighting in Gaza and Libya has seen the targeting of a fuel burning power station and oil depot, resulting in large fires that have released toxic plumes into the atmosphere. These scenarios are unfortunately not new, with power stations and oil infrastructure commonly targeted during conflicts. What can peacetime responses to similar events teach us about the current limits of environmental protection during conflict? Andy Garrity investigates. On the 29th of July 2014, Israeli Defence Force (IDF) tanks shelled the Nusairat power station in Gaza. The plant provided approximately a third […]

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The toxic footprint of Syria’s War

The toxic footprint of Syria’s War

Pieter Both and Wim Zwijnenburg, from PAX, discuss the long term health and environmental impacts of Syria’s civil war. Syria’s ongoing civil war has already resulted in over hundred-and-fifty thousand casualties and has brought enormous destruction in cities and towns all over the country. Apart from the direct impact of the armed conflict on the lives and livelihoods of Syrian citizens, health and environmental impacts are emerging as problems that deserve immediate as well as long term attention. This war leaves behind a toxic footprint resulting both directly and indirectly […]

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Report: Pollution Politics – power, accountability and toxic remnants of war

Report: Pollution Politics – power, accountability and toxic remnants of war

In the first of two major reports, Aneaka Kellay examines how the weakness of current international humanitarian law allows the generation of conflict pollution that can impact both civilian health and the environment for long after the cessation of hostilities. The report argues that a new mechanism is needed to prevent and remedy environmental damage, to increase accountability and improve post-conflict response and assistance.  The executive summary and recommendations are presented below, and the full text can be downloaded from here. Executive summary and recommendations Introduction Humanity’s dependency on the […]

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