Guardian Unlimited Observer | Special reports | The environmental damage of war in Iraq

Talk about oil, not environment

So far, there has been official silence on the possible environmental and social implications of an invasion of Iraq. The following article explains in detail what happened in 1991.

Guardian Unlimited Observer | Special reports | The environmental damage of war in Iraq During the 1991 war devastating damage was done to the oil industry in Kuwait. Iraqi forces destroyed more than seven hundred oil wells in Kuwait, spilling sixty million barrels of oil. Over ten million cubic metres of soil was still contaminated as late as 1998. A major groundwater aquifer, two fifths of Kuwait’s entire freshwater reserve, remains contaminated to this day.

Ten million barrels or oil were released into the Gulf, affecting coastline along 1500km and costing more than $700 million to clean up. During the nine months that the wells burned, average air temperatures fell by 10 degrees C as a result of reduced light from the sun. The costs of environmental damage were estimated at $40 billion. Estimates of the numbers likely to die as a result of the air pollution effects were put at about a thousand. Since Iraq has the second largest proven oil reserves of any nation on earth, the potential environmental damage caused by destruction of oil facilities during a new war must be enormous.

Other environmental effects of the 1991 Gulf War included destruction of sewage treatment plants in Kuwait, resulting in the discharge of over 50,000 cubic metres of raw sewage every day into Kuwait Bay.


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