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Jonaid Iqbal

Dateline

Published Date: Jul 5, 2011

WAR TAKES TOLL ON ENVIRONMENT

Apart from deaths and psychological trauma to the collective human psyche, wars and military operations also cause incalculable damage and destruction to the environment.
This was stated by Robina Bhatti, Professor of Global Studies at the California State University, United States, in her public talk at the Sustainable Policy Development Institute (SDPI) Monday.
Prof Bhatti cited war caused an economic loss at about 160.3 billion US dollars, across the world, in one year alone (2010).
In her talk, she also focussed on the need for identifying issues and methods of documenting the environmental impact of the ongoing war in Afghanistan, as well as militancy in Waziristan and elsewhere in the country.
She felt disheartened when she found very few persons in the country were willing to discuss the subject, though the impact of war was significant and affected millions in Waziristan.
“Every person, including children, men, and women, was emotionally disturbed,” she observed.
In her opinion, military actions had repercussions for the local, national and global environment, since military technologies had multiplied the scope and astronomically increased the severity of damage caused by war.
Transportation of weapons and troops, activities of militants, frequent bombings by drones had also badly impacted the ecosystem of Pakistan’s northern areas. The scholar illustrated her talk by quoting behavioural changes brought about in the affected areas where war or military operations were in progress.
Not only weapons had an impact but the ecology of the place also underwent a change, with imported cattle, flora and fauna, which subdued local population, she called the phenomenon, “ecological conquest.”
Bhatti refused to call the changes, “collateral damage,” the term coined by US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld during the US invasion of Iraq.
‘The damage was intentional and the people were targeted. Talking of Afghanistan, she said, “One could still smell the smell of daisy cutters (bombs) at Tora Bora and the great damage it had caused to the ecology of the place.”
In her opinion, while drone attacks in Pakistan were causing a high rate of mental disorders, they were also “tempting” foreign powers to the mineral wealth and other natural resource in which Balochistan was quite rich.
She argued apart from the ill effects of climate change, which was a natural consequence of environment degradation, military movement and resources consumed all the available resources.
As an illustration, she stated, the US was presently using 1.3 billion gallons of oil and it was impossible to sustain that kind of consumption.
She wanted the audience to look beyond the horizon and not to be strait jacketed by the prevailing law and order and think of improvement.
In her opinion pesticides were also a major cause of bad ecology.
She said they were used in war time for the first time and wished to see a healthy food movement in the country.

Web Link:  http://www.dateline.com.pk/city-3/war-takes-toll-on-environment/