Environment: The innocent bystander

Ranjan K Baruah
Looking at the history, we can find two devastating wars fought by many countries. World War I and World War II have destroyed lives and properties in many parts of the world. In the ancient days wars were everywhere. From mere battles to big wars were fought at different places around the world. In the recent wars or even armed conflict we could find the causalities mostly death or wounded. Looking at different war memorials we can realise that even bodies of soldiers could never be sent to their families. Apart from human beings there are many other living beings that are also at risk due to war and armed conflicts.
Have we ever wondered what might be the impact on environment due to war and armed conflicts?  There is no doubt that humanity has always counted its war casualties in terms of dead and wounded soldiers and civilians, destroyed cities and livelihoods, the environment has often remained the unpublicized victim of war. Water wells have been polluted, crops torched, forests cut down, soils poisoned, and animals killed to gain military advantage. Less discussion takes place when it comes to impact on environment or less study has been carried out so far.
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has found that over the last 60 years, at least 40 percent of all internal conflicts have been linked to the exploitation of natural resources, whether high-value resources such as timber, diamonds, gold and oil, or scarce resources such as fertile land and water.
Conflicts involving natural resources have also been found to be twice as likely to relapse.
The United Nations attaches great importance to ensuring that action on the environment is part of conflict prevention, peace keeping and peace building strategies, because there can be no durable peace if the natural resources that sustain livelihoods and ecosystems are destroyed.
To address the crucial issue UN has adopted resolution and declared a special day related to the issue. On 5 November 2001, the UN General Assembly declared 6 November of each year as the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict (A/RES/56/4). On 27 May 2016, the United Nations Environment Assembly adopted resolution UNEP/EA.2/Res.15, which recognized the role of healthy ecosystems and sustainably managed resources in reducing the risk of armed conflict, and reaffirmed its strong commitment to the full implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals listed in General Assembly resolution 70/1, entitled “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.
As the focus is on sustainable development around the world and UN is leading the same hence different partnership are developed at global level. There are few global partnership like EU-UN Partnership on Land and Natural Resource Conflicts, Global Research Programme on Post-Conflict Peace building and Natural Resources, UN Partnership on Women and Natural Resources in Peace building Settings, etc .
This day brings opportunity for us to focus on the issue and take some action to preserve the environment. It is an opportunity for everyone to reflect on the role of war on damaging natural environments and discuss ways to limit environmental destruction caused by armed conflict.
The United Nations attaches great importance to ensuring that action on the environment is part of conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peace building strategies — because there can be no long-lasting peace if the natural resources that sustain livelihoods and ecosystems are destroyed.
As we are already aware of the effect of climate change, so it is important for us to understand the impact of war or armed conflicts on the environment. We have seen armed conflicts in our region and destruction caused to nature.
Different activities and programmes are carried out around the world on this day to generate awareness and take action. Together we can make a difference and we must take action to combat climate change. We may take part directly or indirectly to preserve our environment and there must me focus to rejuvenate the areas which have been effected by wards and armed conflicts.
(With inputs from UN publication and feedback may be sent to [email protected])