Environmental impacts of Military operation

The environmental impact of military operations is a critical issue that warrants attention, as it can result in significant destruction of the environment, both during and after conflicts. Various ways in which military activities can affect the environment have been identified, including habitat destruction, soil and water contamination, air pollution, wildlife disturbance, and climate change. These impacts can have the following long-lasting consequences for both ecosystems and human populations:

Military Pollution of the air, land, and water

More than two-thirds of the CFC-113 that has been released into the ozone layer have come from global military forces. The US and Soviet militaries generated a great deal of hazardous trash during the Cold War. At least 50 nuclear warheads and 11 nuclear reactors are scattered throughout the ocean floor as a result of naval mishaps. On land, there are more nuclear power plants than in the water. The five largest US chemical industries combined produce five times as much toxic waste as the Pentagon. The largest single contributor to environmental pollution in the US is the military. It is predicted that cleaning up military-related sites will cost more than $500 billion. Additionally, there is a bill that is largely unpaid for the cleanup of former Soviet military activities.

The nuclear weapons industry shares some of the blame for the environmental damage brought on by the entire nuclear chain, which starts with uranium mining and milling and continues through the transportation of “yellowcake,” MOX, and other nuclear materials (including the risks involved in transportation by road, rail, and on the high seas, as well as those related to nuclear-powered vessels). Due to the enormous volumes of radioactive material, they contain, places like Chelyabinsk, La Hague, Yucca Mountain, Hanford, Sellafield, and Murmansk are likely to be permanently banned.

Because of the strong linkages to nuclear energy production, it is difficult to estimate the overall cost of dismantling nuclear weapons and associated manufacturing facilities. It must, however, at least come close to the total cost of producing them. This has been estimated to be worth $3.5 trillion in the US alone. Centre for Defence Information. The military must also acknowledge that greenhouse gas emissions, particularly those from aircraft, have a part in contributing to climate change. And yet the Kyoto Treaty specifically excludes the military’s operations from its purview.

Examples of Military Conflict Destruction

Some of the most well-known post-war stresses on the environment (combined with serious dangers to human safety and health) are:

  1. Radiation from nuclear explosions (Hiroshima, Nagasaki)
  2. Agricultural degradation due to landmines (many African and Asian countries)
  3. Unexploded “remnants of war” (UXO) impeding agriculture, eg cluster bombs (Kosovo, Afghanistan)
  4. Chemical agents and burning of oil wells (Gulf War)

A list of the more severe environmental impact of actual conflicts would need to also include the following:

Scorched-earth tactics. It has been military practice down the ages for retreating armies to lay waste to enemy territory. Historical examples include Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow and the Nazis in the Soviet Union and in Northern Norway. The use of “Agent Orange” and other US defoliants during the Vietnam War rendered about a third of Vietnam a wasteland. The Vietnamese farming landscape is defaced by 2.5 million craters. In all the wars between 1945 and 1982, Vietnam lost over 80% of its original forest cover. The ecological devastation of the country will take generations to repair.

The Gulf War had serious effects on the environment. A million to four million barrels of oil were lost to the ocean. Oil spills and well fires have severely damaged 460 miles of shoreline. Crude oil could have chronic long-term impacts that eventually cause coral death. The topsoil and all neighbouring flora were completely destroyed by the fuel-air bombs used to clear minefields. Radiation consequences resulted from the usage of munitions containing depleted uranium. large amounts of coalition forces’ sand pits filled with waste, hazardous debris, and 45 to 54 million gallons of sewage. The “syndrome” of the Gulf War, which affected coalition troops, is thought to have some connection to harmful substances.

Air attacks during the NATO military operation in Kosovo and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia caused significant environmental damage. Chemicals and oil products were released into the Danube River by burning oil refineries. Bombings of chemical factories sent extremely hazardous compounds into the environment. Sites with biodiversity were damaged in the FRY. The usage of depleted uranium bullets led to higher levels of radiation. There was concern that a nuclear power station may be bombed, causing radioactive materials to spread. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) conducted its first post-conflict environmental assessment during the Kosovo conflict. A UNEP Task Force found that the four Serbian locations had substantial environmental problems and a risk to human health. Anti-personnel landmines cover thousands of square miles of Afghanistan’s farmland and mountain passes. There is evidence that the use of ammunition containing depleted uranium in the current conflict with Al-Qaeda may also have led to environmental contamination and long-term health hazards.

Militarisation of Outer Space

Since missile systems rely on satellite guidance, space is already militarized. This process will be accelerated by the US Missile Defence (MD) Programme already in place (the 1972 Anti Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty limiting ABMs was scuttled in June 1992 at US request). To achieve “full spectrum” US military dominance. If the militarization of space continues, there is a serious risk that it will become contaminated by nuclear or conventional explosions from battle. A treaty on the prevention of an arms race in outer space (PAROS) needs to be negotiated immediately. However, in discussions at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva, the US rejects any pre-commitment to a Treaty.

Nuclear weapons development and production

The development, production, storage, transportation, and disposal of nuclear weapons all have an influence on human health and the environment. According to some academics, the radioactive fallout from the now-banned atmospheric nuclear testing may have already resulted in up to 86,000 birth deformities and 150,000 premature deaths, and it may ultimately cause more than two million cancer deaths in the future. It is well known that uranium mining, which takes place in many nations, can result in serious pollution. This is also true of activities across the entire manufacturing chain. To understand the urgency and significance of the task, one just needs to look at the scope of the issue at the massive nuclear production facility at Hanford, USA.

It goes without saying that cleaning up after and disposing of Russia’s excess stockpiles of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons also pose a significant environmental (and security) risk. At the Calgary Summit in June 2002, the G8 governments finally decided to commit sizable resources to solving the problem.

While managers of nuclear facilities frequently opt to downplay the issue, regional civic organisations, like the US members of the Military Toxics Network, have long worked to highlight the risks and advocate for closure, compensation, etc. Government agencies, municipal governments, the private sector, and labour unions are significant players in the research and production of nuclear weapons. To ensure that the sector is gradually shut down, plans are established for the long term, and the leftover funds are invested in renewable energies and technologies, a systematic effort to bring them together with those who have the financial and technical skills is required.

Land-use by Military

When the military seizes land (and bodies of water) from the locals for use as bases, target ranges, armament storage, training grounds, etc., people are relocated all over the world. The US bases in Okinawa (Japan), Guantanamo (Cuba), and Diego Garcia are only a few of the numerous examples, along with Thule in Greenland, where native Inuit were relocated for the US base. The usage of fuels, explosives, solvents, and other toxic materials is common in military operations. They can permeate into the environment and have an impact on the local populations when handled or stored carelessly. As heavy military vehicles traverse narrow roads and bridges during military exercises, farmland and other property frequently sustain damage. Noise pollution from low-flying military aircraft has shown to be a severe threat, notably to the rearing of animals, in the lands of the Innu (Canada) and elsewhere. This has led to the creation of an active citizen campaign. Military rights nearly often take precedence over environmental and health issues. Another excellent illustration of the environmental and social strains generated by military facilities and the disrespect displayed by army planners for local people is the recent demonstrations of the residents of the Caribbean island of Vieques off the coast of Puerto Rico.

In Pakistan, the military is a strong institution that has effectively governed the country’s affairs for the past 75 years. Nobody has tried to oppose their genuine right to act however they like in any institution, including the executive, judicial, or legislative branches. According to Ms. Ayesha Siddiqa, the Pakistani army owns 13% of the nation’s land, with top military officers owning the other 23%. The following table of military cantonment areas in Pakistan serves as further evidence.

Table 1

Cantt Names and Location by Pakistan Military

No Cantt Location No Cantt Location
1. Mardan Cantt KPK 1. Kalabagh Cantt Punjab
2. Risalpur Cantt KPK 2. Kamra Cantt Punjab
3. Nowshera Cantt KPK 3. Rahim Yar Khan Cantt Punjab
4. Peshawar Cantt KPK 4. Dera Ghazi Khan Cantt Punjab
5. Cherat Cantt KPK 5. Bahawalpur Cantt Punjab
6. Bannu Cantt KPK 6. Mailsi Cantt Punjab
7. Abbottabad Cantt KPK 7. Khaniwal Cantt Punjab
8. Havallan Cantt KPK 8. Manser Cantt Punjab
9. Tarbela Cantt KPK 9. Sanjwal Cantt Punjab
10. Kohat Cantt KPK 10. Attock Fort Cantt Punjab
1. Karachi Cantt Sindh 11. Okara Cantt Punjab
2. Clifton Cantt Sindh 12. Abdul Hakim Cantt Punjab
3. Korangi Cantt Sindh 13. Shorkot Cantt Punjab
4. Manora Cantt Sindh 14. Sargodha  Cantt Punjab
5. Malir Cantt Sindh 15. DIK Cantt Punjab
6. Faisal Cantt Sindh 16. Jalapur Cantt Punjab
7. Jacabbad Cantt Sindh 17. Jhelum Cantt Punjab
8. Pertoro Cantt Sindh 18. Rawalpindi Cantt Punjab
9. Hyderabad Cantt Sindh 19. Chunain Cantt Punjab
10. Badin Cantt Sindh 20. Rahwali Cantt Punjab
11. Chhor Cantt Sindh 21. Lahore Cantt Punjab
12. Pano Aqil Cantt Sindh 22. Walton Cantt Punjab
         1. Pasni Cantt Baluchistan 23. Sialkot Cantt Punjab
         2. Omara Cantt Baluchistan 24. Kharian Cantt Punjab
         3. Chaman Cantt Baluchistan 25. Attock Cantt Punjab
         4. Zhob Cantt Baluchistan 26. Chaklala Cantt Punjab
         5. Loralai Cantt Baluchistan 27. Wah Cantt Punjab
         6. Quetta Cantt Baluchistan 28. Muree Cantt Punjab
         7. Sibi Cantt Baluchistan 1. Rattu Cantt GB
         8. Khuzadar Cantt Baluchistan 2. Sakardu Cantt GB
         9. Turbat Cantt Baluchistan 3. Gilgit Cantt GB
       10. Gawadar Cantt Baluchistan 1. Mangla Cantt Kashmir


A report was presented in the Senate in 2003. According to this, the army is running 27 housing schemes in the country.

In the same period, 16 plots were distributed among 130 officers.


Details of land held by the Army:

Lahore. 12 thousand acres

Karachi. 12 thousand acres

Attock. 3000 acres

Taxila. 2500 acres

Peshawar. 4000 acres

Quetta. 2500 acres

Its price is 300 billion rupees.

This was revealed in the National Assembly in 2009.

To mitigate the environmental impact of military operations, some strategies have been implemented, including, peaceful solutions to all conflicts, the development, and use of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, and the adoption of sustainable practices and technologies to reduce waste and pollution. It is essential to consider the environmental consequences of military operations, as they can have long-lasting effects on the health and well-being of ecosystems and human populations.

Source: International Peace Bureau, Geneva, August 2002


Similar Posts