A member of the National Police special de-mining unit works with mine fuses during an operation near Izum town, amidst Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv region, Ukraine on October 24, 2023. Ukraine, in an ecological transition zone, is also home to vibrant wetlands and forests and a large swath of virgin steppe. The war has scarred the natural environment, polluting its rivers and lakes and contaminating its soil. Almost 75 per cent of surface water and 50 per cent of all water in Russia and Ukraine are now polluted, causing their ecosystems and species to become vulnerable.
A Palestinian girl waits to collect portable water in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on October 26, 2023, amidst reported damage to water infrastructure, including pump stations, groundwater network and desalination plants, during the ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. UNICEF reported that 96 percent of the water from Gaza's aquifer is now unfit for human consumption and only a tenth of Gazans get direct access to safe water, and children are the worst victims.
A file photo shows an aerial view of Catatumbo River in North Santander, Columbia, contaminated with oil after the state oil company's pipelines were attacked by the armed guerrilla group Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN), five days after they signed a truce with the Colombian government. Despite its activist stance, committing to the protection of Colombian natural resources from predatory multinational corporations, ELN itself has perpetrated severe environmental disasters by bombing oil pipelines.
Miners work inside a ruby mine in Mogok, north of Mandalay, Myanmar. The mining industry for precious stones and gold has cleared trees, eroded land and riverbanks, and polluted waterways with sediment across Myanmar for decades. At the same time, armed resistance groups fight the military junta for territorial control and wealth resources in these areas to finance their military operations.
This aerial photograph shows an area devastated by logging in Kahuzi-Biega National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo. The tropical rainforest in the Congo River basin is the world's second-largest, stretching over six central African countries. It can absorb 4 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions every year. Sixty percent of this precious forest, which falls within the DRC, has been ruined by deforestation, illicit trade of timber and wildlife poaching by armed groups. The conflict between these groups and the Congolese army has led to the internal displacement of millions, many of whom have fled to the rainforest, where they have cleared land for farming and used wood for fuel, further exacerbating deforestation.
People who fled ethnic clashes in Sudan's Blue Nile state wait at a clinic set up by health authorities in collaboration with Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) at a camp for displaced people in Damazin, in the Blue Nile state, Sudan, on August 7, 2022. In a complex conflict involving deep-seated grievances and battles for power, rival groups fight over territorial control of natural resources and critical minerals easily exploited for economic gain without considering the consequences on the land. UNEP research shows at least 40 percent of all internal conflicts over the last 60 years can be linked to exploiting natural resources.