Russia’s war in Ukraine has now moved into a phase of positional warfare, in which holding back enemy offensives and building fortifications is becoming a central strategy. Few, however, are writing about the effect that trenches and dugouts have on the environment. Their construction requires the use of high-quality wood, and fortifications also have a negative impact on the soil cover, which is destroyed both by engineering work and by constant shelling. In creating lines of defense, armies also create problems for the animal world. In the opening article of this issue, Oleksiy Vasyliuk, a UWEC Work Group expert and head of the Ukrainian Nature Conservation Group, analyzes the main problems for the environment caused by the active construction of fortifications. Problems that, as the experience of World War I, infamous for becoming bogged down in positional battles, shows, may plague Ukraine for years to come:
The war has affected protected areas across Ukraine either directly or indirectly. Some of them, including the famous Askania-Nova Biosphere Reserve, are under occupation. Others have suffered significant damage during the fighting, with administrative buildings destroyed and injuries to staff. The war has also had an impact on reserves some distance away from the frontlines. On one hand, reserves have seen cuts to funding. On the other, restrictions have been placed on visits to conservation areas located in Ukraine’s western or northern border zones or in the immediate vicinity of military training areas. For a report on how Ukraine’s reserves and national parks are coping with the war, read the article by UWEC journalist Viktoriya Hubareva, who visited a number of reserves and national parks, interviewed their management and saw how these conservation areas operate in wartime with her own eyes:
The territories of Ukraine’s nature reserve fund (NRF), including zoos and botanical gardens, can only survive in such conditions with the support of foundations and civil society volunteers. Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, the NRF has received both financial and volunteer support, which has made it possible to preserve unique collections and continue the work of reserves, even in the occupied territories. Find out more in this article by Oleksiy Vasyliuk:
Our work group is continuing to study aspects of Ukraine’s recovery and involve civil society in these processes. The future of not only the country, but also the entire region depends on how environmentally friendly and sustainable this process is. One particularly thorny question today is whether the Kakhovka reservoir and the entire infrastructure of the lower Dnieper will be rebuilt, and if so, how. The UWEC Work Group, like other environmentalists, is completely opposed to the reconstruction of the Kakhovska HPP in its former, Soviet dimensions. This work involves detailed expert analysis, which we are doing and publishing in our articles. You can read about the role of international banks and the importance of including civil society in the recovery processes in this article by our experts Eugene Simonov and Oleksiy Vasyliuk:
Work on analyzing environmental consequences and supporting projects for Ukraine’s green recovery is currently ongoing in many areas. It is not possible for us to cover all of these in individual texts. So as not to miss out on important and most interesting projects we have decided to publish a monthly digest, in which we will cover such initiatives and studies. We have already prepared the first edition, and you can read it in this issue:
In addition, on February 1 we held our latest webinar as part of the series we are running in collaboration with Reporters Without Borders and the Svea Green Foundation. You can watch the video, as well as recordings of previous webinars, on our YouTube channel.
We wish you strength and peace!
Alexej Ovchinnikov, editor of UWEC Work Group