War Versus Pollution Research Proposal

Pages: 8 (2299 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Military

¶ … War on Pollution of the Environment


War with all that is entailed in such conflicts has a powerful environmental impact due to the pollution generated during war. These impacts include environmental pollution on land, in the sea, and in the air. The objective of this work is to examine the impact that war has on pollution of the environment.


It is reported in a Greenpeace Briefing of February 2003 that the impacts to the environment of the Gulf War "were tremendous." During that Gulf War there were a reported six to eight million barrels of oil "deliberately poured into the Persian Gulf, causing the world's largest oil spill." (Greenpeace, 2003) More than 600 Kuwait oil wells "created a blanket of soot, gases and chemicals, which impacted terrestrial and marine systems over the Gulf area." (Greenpeace, 2003) the oil spills in the Persian Gulf resulted in bays and mudflats becoming "clogged with oil" with resulted in disruption of the flora and fauna in these areas which are vital areas environmentally and this causes the death of "tens of thousands of birds." (Greenpeace, 2003)

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Destroyed was the "feeding grounds for over one hundred thousand wading and migratory birds" with slow recovery to these populations. Shrimp fisheries declined following the war and others were impacted due to "the chronic effects of oiling." (Greenpeace, 2003) Greenpeace states that the land "suffered physically and biologically from the military assault." (Greenpeace, 2003) the desert soil was compressed due to the traffic of tanks and tracked vehicles and this affected the regrowth of the vegetation in the desert. Additionally, there was "large amounts of refuse, toxic materials and millions of gallons of sewage in sandpits" left by the coalition military forces in the area. (Greenpeace, 2003) Greenpeace additionally states that the health, water and sanitation as well as the power systems in Iraq were not restored after their destruction during the Gulf War which has only been worsened due to a drought in the area.

Research Proposal on War Versus Pollution Assignment

The work of Hooshang Amirahmadi entitled: "Iranian Recovery From Industrial Devastation During the War with Iraq" states that information regarding environmental damage during the war is "scattered and inconclusive" primary because "the Iranian authorities who were charged with reconstruction focused attention on immediate relief efforts and on rebuilding both the economy and the military. Moreover, in contrast to the Gulf War of 1990, the international community did not monitor environmental effects of the Iran-Iraq war. This is attributable both to difficulties that the mass media experienced in reporting the war and to the fact that Iran had fallen out of favor with Western governments that might otherwise have taken an interest." (Amirahmadi, 1992) However, there are some effects known and for example "extensive minefields and unexploded war materials in all of Iran's five war-affected provinces have posed daily hazards to local populations. It is also known that ground battles and aerial bombardments caused extensive destruction of forests - a process that was exacerbated by people searching for cooking fuel to replace normal supplies; run-off and erosion have increased as a result. During the conflict, more than 3 million date palms and 5,000 hectares of orchards were destroyed. Some 130,000 hectares of natural forests and 753,000 hectares of pasture land in the war-afflicted provinces were also rendered unusable." (Amirahmadi, 1992) Equally significant was the impact on farmland which are stated to be contaminated "by toxic materials emanating from chemical and biological weapons. During the war, produce from southern Iran was considered unhealthy and could not be marketed, thereby driving up prices and creating shortages. The situation was not simply one of direct destruction and contamination. The problems of warfare were compounded by other problems, including removal of topsoil, compaction and flooding of agricultural lands, modifications of river flows, interruption of irrigation water supplies, and waterlogging and salinization due to salt water flowing onto agricultural land when irrigation canals were destroyed. Finally, study of contamination in rural areas is hampered by the presence of unidentified minefields." (Amirahmadi, 1992)

Amirahmadi states that "once the mainstay of economic activity...the Karoun River...is now heavily polluted and unusable." (1992) There is further a high incidence of eye infections, stomach illnesses and skin ailments experienced in the rural population. Amirahmadi states that the specific cause of these conditions are not know however, it has been noted among health officials that the incidence of these conditions are extremely higher than among individuals in areas that have not be affected by the war. Since the war ended there has as well been "an alarming increase in health-threatening insects and pests. There has also been an increased incidence of acute respiratory disease, possibly as a result of war-induced toxins in the environment, as well as an increase in the number of those afflicted by severe diarrhea, which can be more directly linked to the disruption of the provision of fresh water supplies." (Amirahmadi, 1992) the beach, in the coastal region between the Straight of Hormuz and Abadan, which compasses about 250 kilometers of beach, is reported to be "...covered in tar and asphalt. These substances posed a grave threat to already endangered species and protective vegetation. Leaks from oil tankers attacked in the Gulf are believed to be the cause..." Of this pollution. (Amirahmadi, 1992) Amirahmadi additionally writes that the prawn fishing industry "...has been severely threatened, owing to the destruction of mangrove and sea-grass cultures in the coastal regions of the Gulf. Sea grasses are affected by toxic hydrocarbons and contamination of sediments; oils penetrate the stomata and kill entire seagrass communities that provide nursery grounds for prawns." (1992) Also contaminating the area are the ships that were sunk as the wrecks are still deep in as well as along the Shatt-al-Arab waterway. This problem is exacerbated due to the currents carrying contaminant cargoes through the waterway and then into the Gulf which not only impacts the fishing industry but as well creates a threat to the ecology of the area and other adjacent water-tables in the area.

Amirahmadi writes that three types of direct damage resulted from the war noted by the Iranian government included damages to: (1) buildings and installations; (2) machinery and equipment; and (3) materials and goods. The sector sustaining the most damage was that of the oil sector.


The work of Jennifer Learning (2000) entitled: "Environment and Health: Impact of War" states that the development of nuclear technology during World War II which "expanded as an industrial enterprise of vast scope and complexity in the Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union..." has and continues to "dominate concerns regarding potential hazards to the environment. Radioactivity, released into the environment in many phases of production and testing processes, poses a serious threat to the health of biological species, including humans." (Learning, 2000)

During the last half of the 20th Century there were huge amount of radioactivity released due to the primary nuclear powers testing of these weapons. Learning states specifically: "The testing phase of nuclear weapons included 423 atmospheric tests (conducted from 1945 to 1957) and about 1400 underground tests (from 1957 to 1989). The total burden of radionuclides released from these tests has been estimated at 16-18 million curies (1 Ci = 3.7 x 1011 Bq) of strontium-90, 25-29 million curies of cesium-137-400-000 curies of plutonium-329 and (for the atmospheric tests only) 10 million curies of carbon-14." (2000)

The Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state which produced weapon-grade plutonium has represented a massive environmental pollution area which has cost many millions in the attempt to clean up the pollution from the production of nuclear weapons and as well the Rocky Flats Plant in Colorado which produced the plutonium triggers for warhead and the Savannah River Plant in Georgia which produced tritium and plutonium also represent millions of dollars in cleanup efforts as well as massive pollution to these areas. In fact, Learning (2000) states: "Disputes regarding the human health effects of these exposures have not been entirely resolved, despite extensive study. The U.S. government has recently acknowledged that occupational exposures to nuclear and other toxic materials at these plants justifies the awarding of compensation to over 3000 current and retired workers whose health has been adversely affected." (2000)


Another aspect to pollution that has resulted from war is that which aerial and naval forces have contributed. For example, "During World War II, when air power the bombardment of cities and the destruction of forests, farms, transport systems and irrigation networks during World War II produced devastating environmental consequences, and by the end of the war there were almost 50 million refugees and displaced people. In the last year of the war the land of coastal and northern France was torn up, Holland south of the Zuyder Sea was flooded with the destruction of dikes, and many ports were clogged with unexploded ordnance and sunken ships." (Learning, 2000)

It is noted by Learning (2000) that… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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