Industrial infrastructure

Ukraine is a highly industrialized country, with many mines, chemical processing plants and metallurgical plants, risking a great technological disaster. On the 24th, the inhabitants of Odessa were warned that the port factory in Odessa could be affected. The plant, one of the largest in Ukraine, produces ammonia, urea and other chemicals. These sites are high risk objects, not only through direct damage, but also through forced shutdowns, power cuts or lack of personnel to operate them safely, situations that can arise when caught in fights. Industrial control systems can also be affected by cyber operations. Many major Ukrainian cities are home to potentially dangerous industries, including Kyiv, Kharkiv, Kryvyi Rih, Mariupol and Odessa. On the 25th, a huge fire was reported at the Kharkiv Tractor Plant.

Over the past eight years, the risks of environmental emergencies in the heavily industrialized region of Donbass have raised serious concerns. Communities and forces on both sides of the line of contact are aware of the threats, but escalating conflict carries greater risks of incident, particularly where the largely static line of contact is shifting. On the 22nd, the area around the Luhanska thermal power plant suffered heavy shelling and a transformer was hit, causing a fire, while on the 25th there was reports of a fire at an oil storage facility in the Kirovsky district of Donetsk. The site was reportedly hit by a drone in September 2021.

A slower-onset environmental disaster could already be locked in for Donbass due to the abandonment of groundwater pumping from coal mines in the region. Research published coincidentally on the 24th showed how much the ground has deformed due to rising groundwater. Mine drainage is typically polluted with high levels of salts and metals and already contaminates wells and drinking water sources, while subsidence can damage buildings and infrastructure. There are particular concerns about the discharge of the Yunkom Minesite of a nuclear test in the 1970s.

Beyond chemical, metallurgical and energy infrastructure, a grain elevator in the city of Uman was damaged 24. Ukraine and Russia are major grain exporters and there are fears that the price spikes will impact food security internationally, with particular concern for countries like the Yemen. On the 24th, the World Food Program said: “The escalation of the conflict in Ukraine is likely to further increase the prices of fuel and foodstuffs, and in particular cereals in this country dependent on imports.”

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