Senior US officials gather weekly to assess and share information on environmental threats Ukraine faces due to the Russian invasion, Axios has learned.
- The goal of the interagency group, made up of 21 federal agencies, is to help the Ukrainian government track and mitigate environmental risks, some of which could last years after the fighting ends.
Why is this important: The destruction of civilian infrastructure, such as water treatment plants, fuel depots and hazardous waste sites, creates complex threats to the ecosystems on which people depend for food, water and other uses.
Enlarge: The State Department set up the task force about a month ago in response to a request for assistance from the Ukrainian government, State Department officials told Axios.
- Participants include representatives from NASA, the EPA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the US Forest Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, the US Geological Survey and the Department of Defense.
- The Forest Service and its partners in Ukraine, for example, are working to monitor wildfires and run fire danger models for the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, where fires could spread radioactive material.
- Known as the “Interagency Task Force on Environmental Damage in Ukraine”, the group covers a wide range of issues, from pollution resulting from warfare to changes in wildfire risk as battles rage in and around woodlands. In addition, the management of war-related waste and debris is part of its remit, as is the loss of biodiversity.
- The group is led by a unit within the State Department known as the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. Other offices are participating in the effort, a State Department official said.
The plot: Ukraine has asked for help documenting environmental damage, in part to try to hold Russia accountable for it after the conflict, the official said.
- Ukraine is seeking access to data that can reveal a before-and-after view of the country’s environmental resources, including biodiversity and protected sites, as well as damage to sites that are now causing significant amounts of pollution, the report said. responsible.
Between the lines: The work the United States does includes everything from satellite monitoring of pollution and possible wildfires through NASA satellites and Forest Service programs to monitoring agricultural resources and food chain disruptions. supply of Ukraine’s precious wheat crop.
- NASA prepares wheat yield reports and tracks harvest progress, as well as monitors global crop conditions.
- According to Lara Peterson, assistant director for Russia, Europe and Eurasia at the Forest Service and a participant in the interagency group, her agency is also working to try to expand wilderness therapy programs for traumatized people. through conflict, when it is safe to do so.
- The Forest Service already runs such programs in the United States, she said.
Our thought bubble: In times of war, the environment usually suffers, and Ukraine and the United States are essentially engaged in a relationship of sharing environmental intelligence, just as the military is with the Ukrainian armed forces.