Effects of Bombing on the Environment

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  • by Anup Shah
  • This page last updated

As well as a huge humanitarian toll on the people of Kosovo, the environment of this 13th richest biodiversity resource in the world was also feared at risk as well as the entire Balkan region and other regions of Europe.

On this page:

  1. Chemical Warfare by NATO -- Illegal Use of Depleted Uranium, again
  2. Chemical Threat
  3. Long Term Effects Hard to Ascertain

Chemical Warfare by NATO -- Illegal Use of Depleted Uranium, again

Once again, there was illegal use of depleted uranium (DU) by the US and UK. It was also used in the Gulf War.

Note that in 1996 the United Nations Human Rights Tribunal called upon states to "to curb the production and the spread of weapons of mass destruction or with indiscriminate effect, in particular nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, fuel-air bombs, napalm, cluster bombs, biological weaponry and weaponry containing depleted uranium;" (You can see the UN resolution at their web site from this link. See also this link for additional information.)

The following are good accounts and information about DU:

  • This report is an on-line radio talk about the effects of DU being used. You may need to download the Real Audio player to listen to this.
  • "Not such conventional weapons" by Christine Abdelkrim-Delanne, from Le Monde Diplomatique is short, but also provides a detailed account about depleted uranium.)
  • The World Health Organization has an informative fact sheet about Depleted Uranium, where they point out that DU has both chemical and radiological toxicity with the two important target organs being the kidneys and the lungs. While they indicate that some impacts of DU at smaller doses may not be as bad as first thought, at higher dosage, there are possible risks of lung cancer and kidney damage, for example.

March 2000, about 9 months after the bombing ended, finally NATO admitted to the UN that it used depleted uranium. NATO said they dropped 10 tonnes of depleted uranium in shells. However, NATO is still holding back critical data on how depleted Uranium was used, while being urged by the UN to clean up its uranium debris in Kosovo, as reported by the Guardian.

As early as July 1999, environmentalists warned that KFOR troops and civilians may suffer from the effects of depleted Uranium, resulting in similar effects as the Gulf War Syndrome. In fact, since the Gulf War 1991, there have been similar concerns.

Towards the end of 2000, it was revealed that Depleted Uranium was also used in other areas of the Balkans. Various European nations are now concerned (in many, it has become an uproar) about the effects on their soldiers, especially when six Italian soldiers died from Leukaemia, which is linked to radiation exposure (and observed amongst survirors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as this article points out). Only the United States and the United Kingdom's defence departments claim that there is no risk, while further evidence is increasing against their claims. While it has caused an uproar in the European mainstream, the U.S media in comparison hardly mentions anything.

However, it should be noted that even though there is discussion on this issue, the discourse of the wider issues of the bombing itself remains unquestioned by the mainstream. The effects on those who have to live near bombed checmical factories and polluted rivers that have resulted from this NATO bombing remains unquestioned. Of course, concern for one's own soldiers is valid, but so to is of other people.

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Chemical Threat

Contradictory statements from Clinton were made warning Milosevic not to use chemical weapons while NATO/US themselves were using depleted uranium weapons, bombing oil refineries and other factories that ended up spewing toxic clouds of lethal chemicals into the air. Furthermore, as John Pilger highlights, the U.S. has used chemical weapons in many prior conflicts as well.

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Long Term Effects Hard to Ascertain

As it turns out, a UN agency that went to Kosovo and other areas of Yugoslavia, has said that the NATO air strikes have had a "devastating impact" on the environment. It says that it has also affected agriculture, industries, employment, essential services, land, air, rivers, lakes and underground waters as well as the food chain and public health has also been affected.

Interestingly enough, another UN report suggests that Yugoslavian claims of environmental catastrophe from the bombing have been rejected, although it is admitted that there are some severe local problems. An additional point is that there has been little data about the environment before the bombing so that the comparison is difficult to make.

Regardless, it is estimated that it could take billions of dollars worth of aid and up to ten years to restore the war-torn Balkan region.

Visit the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Balkans web site for more updated information and reports on the environmental effects of the region.

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Author and Page Information

  • by Anup Shah
  • Created:
  • Last updated:

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