War-torn environment: Europeans pledge to help Ukraine

War-ravaged environment: Europeans pledge to help Ukraine

UPDATE DAY

Razed forests, mined and polluted agricultural land, contaminated rivers: Kyiv sounded the alarm on Wednesday before European environment ministers who promised each for their country to help Ukraine fight against this damage due to the Russian offensive. 

The Ukrainian Minister of the Environment, Ruslan Strilets, notably reported 3 million hectares of damaged forests, 40 oil depots destroyed at the cost of intense air pollution and at least 260 cases of “ecocides”. , which correspond in Ukrainian law to attacks affecting large natural areas.

Even access to drinking water is threatened: “The Russians are destroying sewage treatment plants”, the courts of water are polluted following the bombardments, and the relocation of inhabitants in the west of the country “puts pressure on the existing infrastructures”, he explained.

Meeting in Prague, the ministers of the Twenty-Seven have multiplied the offers of support.

“Several states can help to analyze and list the damage. Others spoke of financial aid,” stressed Czech Environment Minister Anna Hubackova, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency.

Prague offers its services for soil decontamination and demining: “We had the Russian army on our soil and had to clear minefields, we have experience,” she recalled.

Austria says it has provided its expertise for a laboratory analyzing drinking water and groundwater, and Poland is offering “equipment and personnel for field measurements”.

Ruslan Strilets assured AFP that Germany had promised “20 million euros” to his country to finance projects for the restoration of natural areas.

“It was very useful to be present, to see who was proposing what, the concrete offers, that will help me to prepare a new environmental program,” he explained.

Faced with disparate proposals, “sometimes overlapping the same areas”, he however suggested better coordination: “A platform listing all the European means would be a good idea”, he estimated.

“Many proposals can be coordinated. If appropriate, it will be done at European level,” assured Anna Hubackova, emphasizing that Europeans will help themselves by supporting Ukraine.

“When contaminated industrial sites or buildings by asbestos are attacked, toxic substances are spreading in the environment, it will take decades to treat and the damage does not stop at the borders”, argued Austrian Minister Leonore Gewessler.

Helped by its new status as a candidate country, Ukraine also joined the LIFE program at the beginning of July, an EU instrument for co-financing new techniques for safeguarding the environment, endowed with funding of 5.4 billion dirhams. euros and to which it may resort.