The Impact of the Vietnam War and Persian Gulf War on the Environment Essay

People think about their own ambitions when they engage in different wars. They usually forget that wars can bring big damage and destruction to the environment. Very often people treat wars like conflicts between different nations and countries. At the same time they forget that war influences all sphere of human life as long as the environment.

On the example of the Vietnam war and Gulf War I will illustrate the impact of war on the environment. I believe that people should consider ecological consequences of wars and conflicts and mind environment when starting wars with each other.

The damage to the environment caused by different wars became a subject of attention for the first time during the Vietnam War. “In Vietnam, almost 30 years after the American withdrawal, the ecological effects of the US high-tech war are still visible. According to the Vietnamese government, some 100,000 people have been killed and injured by unexploded ordinance left over from the war. They joined the 3,000,000 Vietnamese who were killed during the long war from 1960 to 1975” (Lanier-Graham, 109). During that time a lot of animals suffered because of chemical defoliation in Vietnam forests. This war became a vivid illustration of the devastating effect of warfare on the ecosystem. During this war the U.S. military forces used a strategy of defoliating jungle canopy. They spayed “Agent Orange” and other toxic herbicides over the territory of South Vietnam. More than 10 percent of Vietnam territory became affected by these herbicides. The U.S. army used massive bombing, different kinds of forest destruction, crop destruction, which had extremely negative effects on the humans and ecology of the region (Arthur H. Westing, 1983). This had negative effect on the ecology of the region. It brought serious damage to the vegetation and animals of the region. The forest is very important for natural and human systems of Vietnam. Jungle served there as a protective canopy, which defended the soil for erosion, which appeared as a result of torrential rains. It also had a positive impact on the humidity and temperature of the region. The Vietnamese population have always lived on the uplands, but forest also have an important meaning for them (Austin and Bruch, 106). That is the reason demolishing forests and use of herbicides during the Vietnam war had such a devastating effect for the country.

Much of Vietnamese territories were turned into free fire zones, where high technology was used against unarmed population and natural resources of Vietnam. It also affected civil population of the region. Primary birth defects and premature deaths became a direct effect of the used of these herbicides. The negative effects of the use of these herbicides can be traced even observing effects on the U.S. veterans of this war. The veterans of the Vietnams war got big compensations for the participations in the war with the use of Agent Orange. The proposals to give compensations to the Vietnamese victims have been declined (Lanier-Graham, 107). Despite the implementation of these treaties, the negative impact of wars on the environment is still an important problem. Even after the end of the war its negative effects on the ecology of the region are not overcome completely yet. The massive use of bombs during the war exceed any limits known before. All these bombs, combined wit the use of herbicides caused a very serious damage to the ecosystem of Vietnam. Different herbicides, used in the course of the war had an effect, unexpected even for the U.S. army and scholars. Different herbicides, which had negative impact not only on the vegetation of the territory where they were applied, but also on the animals and even people did not get through all necessary testing. During the program named Operaton Ranchhand there was used about 100 million kilograms of pesticides. These contained dangerious elements, such as phenoxy chemical and many others (Austin and Bruch, 114). In general there were used three kinds of herbicides, named Agent Orange, Agent White and Agent Blue. All of them had dangerous effect on the vegetation, flora and fauna of the region. They also had a negative impact on human health. Agents Orange and Agents White were used in order to kill plants by interference with their metabolism. The Agent Blue damaged plants through desiccation (Austin and Bruch, 114).

The Gulf war has had very bad consequences for the social, economic and political sphere of many participants of the conflict. In addition, this war has had a very bad influence on the ecology of the region. During the war the worst oil spill ever known happed. Oil spill caused very serious damage in many countries situated in the Persian Gulf. Iraq and Kuwait had to face the worst consequences of this spill. There are no exact numbers which would measure the damage but different reserves state the spill was from 42 to 462 million gallons of oil. The slick, which appeared as a result of this spill, reached about 100 miles. Gerges in his article “On the impacts of the 1991 Gulf War on the environment of the region: general observations” gives states that the damage created by the spill was really serious and created a real threat to the surrounding.

This spill appeared as a result of Iraqi actions. Iraqi government decided to dump oil into the Persian Gulf in response to the American actions. Iraqi actions aimed to prevent the landing of the American ships. According to the Iraqi version of event American army became the reason of the spill. Iraqi media spread information that Americans cussed the discharge in the oil tankers. Americans quickly distinguished the source of spill and armed forces of the U.S. destroyed pipes in order to prevent future dumping in into the Gulf.

Polluted air, water and soil became not the only consequences of the Gulf War. The damaged caused to the animals from this area was also large. Unfortunately, people who are in power very seldom take into account the impact their actions will have on the ecology of the region. Armed conflicts in the Persian Gulf caused much damage and destruction. Despite the number of efforts was made in order to limit the negative impact of war on the ecology, this still does not help much. Animals suffered a lot during the Gulf War. For the first time in history animals became the victims of oil spill, which appeared during the war.

The Gulf war became the first war where it was made an attempt to calculate animal victims of war actions. For the first time researches tried to make a systematic study of the impact of the war on animals. From the other side, this very war became the first war when military forces tried to defend animals from the effects of the war. Marine birds, migratory birds, lovestock animals, same as camels and horses, became the primary animal victims of the oil spill.

The number of animal victims can be calculated only approximately and it is not a great surprise, since it becomes difficult to determine even human victims. The hundreds of animals, which suffered during the tragedy make only approximate damage, caused to the surrounding (Gerges, 310). Different kinds of animals became affected by the oil spill during the war. The oil released to the Persian Gulf killed about tens of thousands of birds. In addition, it caused great damage to the sea turtles, marine animals. It also caused great harm to the migration birds, which passed through this region and this damage is hard to estimate. Toxic gases, which got into the air because of oil burning also had very dangerous consequences for the animals of the region. These gases cause respiratory diseases among all kinds of animals, living in this region. Negative effect became very visible on the example of birds and small mammals, but negative impact on bigger animals and even humans also appeared after some time. The pour of oil from Kuwait wells resulted in the appearance of big petrochemical lakes. These lakes are extremely dangerous for the land. They also create a big damage to the see when they drain there.

The water of the Persian Gulf has always been rich with different kinds of wildlife. The oil spill caused a very big damaged to these animals right after the beginning of the Gulf war. The oil spill put under threat more than 3.500 spices of animals. (Gulf war impact on marine environment and species. World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Cambridge, UK, January 31, 1991). All these animals were in danger right after the beginning of war actions. There is a number of spices, which are at special risk, such as Socotra cormorants, green and hawksbill turtles and dugongs, which also experienced a great damage because of the war actions. From two to three million birds migrate through this region, returning to the Europe from Africa. Despite there is not exact statistics about the damage to these birds, it is evident that they suffered because of oil spill. When the oil spill migrated to the shore of Saudi Arabia, some part of its volume evaporated. (Environmental consequences of the armed conflict between Iraq and Kuwait, 1991). There are different ways, in which oil spill affected the animals of the Persian Gulf, but most of these ways are deadly for the animals. Oil soaks birds’ feathers and prevents them from flying. Birds drew or die because of the cold. When birds try to clean their feathers, the part of oil gets into their stomachs and it has negative consequences on their liver, stomachs and lungs. Finally, it causes internal hemorrahaging. Even those birds which survived after the spill can suffer from long lasting effects of this spill. They may develop blood disorders, immune system illnesses and respiratory illnesses. The number of rescue operations, performed in order to save animals did not bring much result. The number of operations was performed along the entire causality. Near Saudi city called Jubail there was created a rescue station, where experts from the Royal Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals made all necessary procedures in order to save as many animals as possible. The process of rescue was complicated by the fact that international volunteers did not participate in the rescue operation on the territory of war actions.
Instead of international volunteers the Saudi National Commission of Wildlife Conservation and Development had to turn to the help of students and off-duty military personnel. Under such circumstance it became possible to rescue only small percentage of animals and birds. The rate of mortality raised till 75%. Only few hundred of survivors could be rehabilitated. (Records furnished by National Commission on Wildlife Conservation and Development to WSPA, April 1991). The potential threat created by the oil spill to other animals of the Gulf is hard to estimate. Dolphins, turtles, dugongs and other rare animals can swim freely and the death rate is hard to estimate since many of them died far away from the shore. The season, when the oil spill took place became a very unfavourable factor. Since this oil spill occurred close to the nesting season, it destroyed not only grown up animals, but also their kids and eggs.

Despite the fact the rescue groups put much effort in defending the nesting beaches it still did not help the situation.

Luckily the slick stopped before the main places of the turtle nesting and this helped to save a big number of turtles.

When speaking about the short term effects of the Gulf war, it is necessary to take into account that this war has also long-lasting consequences on the ecology of the region. Experts state that long-lasting effects are hard to estimate, but there is no doubt that they are harmful for the environment. It is also necessary to take into account that the territory of the Gulf region was much polluted before the war broke out and war actions only complicated the situation. Oil production, being the most profitable and widespread business of this region, caused much damage to this region, but the Gulf war worsened the situation several times. Oil spill affected all kinds of living creature and nature of that region. It is also necessary to take into account that the process is not over yet. The oil is still presented in the soil and water of the Gulf. Since the temperature of the water is high, the process of oil break down goes quickly but some components will be presented in the air, water and soil for many years. The analyses of water, performed after the oil spill aimed to estimate the geographic extent of the damage. Analyses showed that water contained a lot of dangerous chemical components, which brought danger to both ”“ animals and people of that region.

War, which is defined as an armed conflict between nations, affects not only the people, who participate in this war.

Wars can have grave impact on the environment, natural resources and pubic health. With the development of technology the impact of wars on the ecology becomes more and more serious. Military weapons affect civil population, natural resources, air and water. In the modern word technology and high level of industrial development have raised the negative impact of war on ecosystem. The use of herbicides during the Vietnam War caused negative impact on both, ecology and people of the region. The oil spill in the Persian Gulf became the biggest oil slick in the history. It caused several kinds of damage to the environment of the region. Oil, which was poured into the Gulf polluted soil, water and air of the region. People, who suffered bad consequences of the war, had also to meet serious problems with the environment. Oil spill had a negative effect on the animals of the region. Marine birds and other marine animals became the worst victims of the spill. Despite the damage is hard to calculate, it is evident that it is the biggest environmental damage created by the oil spill in the human history. What it notable, this spill appeared not as a result of the terrible accident. It was made intentionally by the Iraqi authorities in order to prevent the American marines from entering the Gulf. This way Iraq created much damage to the entire region, including its own citizens.

Both, Vietnam war and the Gulf war gave us some useful lessons. The consequences of the spill are still not liquidated completely and it is evident that great damage had worsened the ecology of the region. Unfortunately, very often political figures do not take into accounts the needs of ordinary people when making their strategic plans.

They neglects the health and even lives of ordinary people and the environment. Such actions have very poor consequences and both wars became a very bright example of such consequences. The impact of the Vietnam War became so dangerous and devastating, that it finally attracted an attention of the world community to the problem of the impact of the warfare of the ecosystems. This finally resulted in the implementation of the Environmental Modification Convention in 1976. This convention prohibited to use the environment as a weapon of war. One year later The Protocol Additional I to Geneva Conventions prohibited created damage to the natural environment (Arkin, 209). If people in general and politicians in particular understand these lessons, we will have the chance to save our ecosystem. The recommendations, which can be giving to everybody, who uses the nature as a weapon during different wars, are simple. It is necessary to remember that we have one planet and one nature, and despite we may live far from each other, ecosystem of our planet is interconnected and all negative consequences of the war actions will most probably affect all people on the planet. Nature is a universal notion and nobody possesses it and thus nobody can use it in order to bring damage to other people. Causing damage to nature is not only unmoral but also dangerous for everybody on this planet. The only recommendation, which can be given in this case, is to exclude any kind of use of nature as a weapon during the war actions and making an attempt the reduce a negative impact on the ecosystems during the any kind of warfare.

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