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International day for preventing environmental exploitation during armed conflict: All you need to know!

The recent armed conflict in Iraq in 2014 deeply impacted the environment, after the retreating ISIS militants set fire to oil wells, resulting in the release of toxic substances into the air.

Nov 6, 2019 13:18 IST
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The International Day for preventing environmental exploitation during war and armed conflict was observed on November 6, 2019. The day aims to ensure that the environment is not destroyed during incidents of armed confrontations.

The environment has often remained a silent victim of wars and armed conflicts, as war casualties are usually counted in terms of the dead or wounded or the destruction caused to livelihoods and cities.

However, the most common target during the conflicts has been the environment, as forests have been cut down, water wells polluted, crops burned, soil poisoned and animals killed.

Also read: Delhi Air Pollution: SC expresses alarm, bans construction, demolition activities, power cuts in Delhi/NCR

World Day for preventing exploitation of the environment during war, armed conflict: All you need to know

When was the day established?

The UN General Assembly on November 5, 2001 established November 6 as the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict. The day is observed annually across the world to spread awareness regarding the same and ensure the protection of the environment and ecosystem under any circumstance.

Why was the day established?

The United Nations Environment Programme revealed that in the last 60 years, almost 40 percent of the internal conflicts were linked with the exploitation of scarce and high-value natural resources such as fertile land, water, timber, diamond, gold and oil. The UN programme found that conflicts over natural resources were twice more likely to relapse in comparison to other conflicts.

Significance

According to the UN, ensuring the protection of the environment is a part of conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peace-building strategies, as there can be no durable peace if the natural resources that support and sustain livelihoods and ecosystems are destroyed. 

Five major environmental disasters

1. During the Vietnam War, the use of toxic herbicide 'Agent Orange' had resulted in large-scale deforestation and chemical contamination.

2. During the Gulf War in 1990–1991, over 600 oil wells were intentionally destroyed by the retreating Iraqi army, causing severe pollution.

3. During the Kosovo conflict in 1999, many industrial sites were bombed, which led to major toxic chemical contamination.

4. The Jiyeh power station oil spill is another severe environmental disaster, which resulted in the release of tones of heavy fuel oil into the eastern Mediterranean due to the bombing of storage tanks at the thermal power station in Jiyeh, Lebanon by the Israeli Air force during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict.

5. The recent armed conflict in Iraq in 2014 also deeply impacted the environment and ecosystem, after the retreating ISIS militants set fire to oil wells, resulting in the release of toxic substances into the air.

Background

The World Day for preventing environmental exploitation during war and armed conflict was established by the United Nations General Assembly on November 5, 2001, during Kofi Annan's term as UN Secretary-General.

The UN Environment Assembly adopted a resolution in May 2016, which highlighted the significant role of healthy ecosystems and sustainable resources in reducing the chances of armed conflict. On the occasion, the UN body also reaffirmed its strong commitment to the full implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Also read: International Poverty Eradication Day 2019: Everything you should know

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