What the environmental legacy of the Gulf War should teach us

What the environmental legacy of the Gulf War should teach us

February marked the 25th anniversary of the 1991 Gulf War’s end. The intensity and magnitude of the allied coalition’s offensive, followed by the systematic destruction of Kuwaiti oil wells by retreating Iraqi troops, led to an unprecedented environmental disaster. Yet within two months, and in a first for international armed conflict, a post-war claims and remediation mechanism ─ the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC) ─ was in place. Its aim was to not only help neighbouring states recover from the personal and financial losses inflicted during the war, but also […]

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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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Military health surveillance – lessons for post-conflict civilian health monitoring

Military health surveillance – lessons for post-conflict civilian health monitoring

Military personnel may come across a number of natural and anthropogenic environmental health risks during training, domestic operations and overseas deployment. Veterans groups and politicians have placed militaries under significant political pressure when exposures have been linked to negative health outcomes. The response has been to seek to integrate data on environmental risks and exposures into health monitoring programmes. Could these systems, and the data they contain, help inform approaches aimed at monitoring the risks to civilians from toxic remnants of war? Vietnam to Kuwait, recording environmental health risks Maintaining […]

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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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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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Iraq, DU and the applicability of peacetime norms during and after conflict

Iraq, DU and the applicability of peacetime norms during and after conflict

A new report from PAX received widespread media coverage last week when it revealed, for the first time, a set of US target coordinates and information for some locations of depleted uranium (DU) strikes from the 2003 Iraq War. The report also sought to assess what the post-conflict response to widespread DU contamination and tonnes of military scrap would have looked like if civil radiation protection guidelines had been properly applied. As one of the TRWP’s principles is that conflict does not immediately remove the requirement to protect public and […]

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Holding private military contractors to account for toxic remnants of war

Holding private military contractors to account for toxic remnants of war

The rapid expansion of the role of the private military security industry during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan poses fundamental questions for the regulation of future wars, and for efforts to strengthen the protection of the environment during and after conflict. While the context of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars differs from much contemporary warfare, the Private Military Security Company (PMSC) industry has grown to such an extent that it would be unwise to ignore its role in future conflicts. The 2003 Iraq War saw the most significant use […]

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Is coalition bombing behind a 17-fold increase in birth defects in an Iraqi city?

Is coalition bombing behind a 17-fold increase in birth defects in an Iraqi city?

By Liz Borkowski This article by guest contributor Liz Borkowski was originally published at The Pump Handle, a US based blog focusing on public health and environmental issues. In just eight years, the incidence of congenital birth defects in Iraq’s Al Basrah Maternity Hospital increased 17-fold, a new study reports. An earlier study found the incidence of birth defects at that hospital to be 1.37 per 1,000 live births between October 1994 and 1995 (out of more than 10,000 births total); in 2003, the rate had jumped to 23 per […]

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