ISAF’s environmental legacy in Afghanistan requires greater scrutiny

ISAF’s environmental legacy in Afghanistan requires greater scrutiny

Since 2001, Afghanistan has seen intensive military activities from a number of countries that have contributed to the ISAF stabilisation force. With the drawdown of ISAF forces and a number of base closures under way, Aneaka Kellay investigates the toxic remnants of ISAF’s operations and who is currently liable for the clean-up. Introduction ISAF has been deployed in Afghanistan since 2001. In August 2003, NATO assumed command of the operation and its mandate has been repeatedly extended by the UN Security Council. During the 2010 Lisbon Summit, NATO agreed to […]

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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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Conflict rubble: a ubiquitous and under-studied toxic remnant of war

Conflict rubble: a ubiquitous and under-studied toxic remnant of war

Andy Garrity examines the potential health impacts associated with exposure to pulverised building materials from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. The health and environmental risks and management of conflict rubble have been raised in several UNEP post-conflict assessments but little data on its post-conflict health impact is available. The use of explosive force in urban areas poses a number of immediate and obvious risks to civilians. Increasing scrutiny is now being focused on the potential health risks from the toxic constituents of munitions but less well understood […]

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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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Who pays for toxic remnants of war?

Who pays for toxic remnants of war?

The ongoing Syrian conflict and return to instability in Iraq this week are stark reminders of war’s devastating effects. While the immediate and shocking consequences of conflict, such as the killing of civilians and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people from their homes, rightly gain widespread attention, the less visible legacy of conflict pollutants can also have long-lasting consequences for civilian health. What sort of environment will Syrian families be working, living, and playing in, in one, two or ten year’s time? Will the polluted post-conflict environment affect […]

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Harm prevention lessons from peacetime norms and standards

Harm prevention lessons from peacetime norms and standards

Industry and development are synonymous with potentially harmful chemicals, waste products and processes. Human or mechanical errors, or technical failures, can result in industrial accidents, which can threaten environmental and public health. Many of the substances involved in industrial processes and accidents are common to military activities and are therefore of relevance when assessing post-conflict environmental contamination. The legislation and conventions in place to prevent industrial harm to the environment, alongside the response and procedures in place to treat contamination are, at present, very different to those relevant to military […]

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Assessing the toxic legacy of First World War battlefields

Assessing the toxic legacy of First World War battlefields

With the passing of the 99th anniversary of the start of World War One in July, Andy Garrity considers the  substantial environmental legacy in several WWI (1914-1918) battlefields a century since the guns fell silent. Soil and marine sediment contamination has been caused by unexploded ordinance (UXO) and other warfare remnants, in addition to the incorrect disposal of the vast stockpiles that remained after the end of the war. “Sustained and intense fighting” left a legacy of environmental contamination WWI is renowned for its high death toll and the stalemate […]

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Toxic Remnants of War: Viet Nam to the present day

Toxic Remnants of War: Viet Nam to the present day

The TRW Project aims to assess, through scientific desk studies, the potential of common military toxic substances (for example explosives or heavy metals) to cause public health and environmental problems. The remediation of dioxin contamination from defoliant spraying during the Viet Nam War has only recently received funding for a few sites and health assistance to affected Vietnamese is still not universally agreed. Therefore, the problem of dioxin remains a relevant example of military-origin contamination. In this post, the origins of the dioxin problem are briefly examined, as is a […]

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