Conflict and military activities can pollute the environment in many ways, some incidents are dramatic but many more may be subtle and cumulative. Contamination begins before the first shots are fired and can persist for long after the guns fall silent.

The pollution of soil, air and water with toxic substances can pose immediate and long-term risks both to civilian health and to the ecosystem as a whole. Conflict can also adversely affect environmental governance, limiting the ability of national authorities to monitor and respond to polluting incidents.

Because legal protection for the environment during conflict is weak, the environmental impact of military operations is rarely prioritised during planning. Because of the lack of accountability for the generation of conflict pollutants, there is little to constrain environmentally damaging behaviours. Because of the lack of a clear system for environmental assistance after conflict, civilians face long-term threats to their health from pollutants.

To learn more about toxic remnants of war, please explore our TRW sources and case studies.