Overview: The South
The author's journey began in the South, where Kuwait's
largest oil fields are and where most of the worst deliberate environmental disaster in history occurred.
The Iraqi army's scorched earth retreat left Kuwait with 727 oil wells either burning or gushing oil. Above the wells, enormous black plumes of choking pollutants rose more than 3 km skyward and spread across the nation and beyond. Lakes of oil holding an estimated 60 million barrels extended across 49 sq km (19 sq mi) of desert and befouled land and precious groundwater supplies.
This unparalleled amount of pollution wreaked havoc on Kuwait's delicate ecosystem as it destroyed plant and animal habitats. It will take generations and tremendous expense before the region fully recovers, and the true extent of the damage may never be known.
Scenes of utter desolation were in the populated South areas. From the Khiran Resort by the Saudi border to Umm Al-Hayman village and bustling Fahaheel city, the scale of Iraq’s methodic, intentional vandalism was staggering.
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. For videos of oil fires, see 0007
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||Oil Fires and Tree Damage (0062)
Kuwait's oil fires and oil lakes permanently killed thousands of trees and stunted the
growth of countless others. This ecological disaster affected trees in various ways
– by direct burning, intense heat, coating of leaves with a sticky residue from falling
oil mist and black rain, leaf absorption of noxious smoke-borne pollutants, and root
absorption of soil contaminants from oil lake seepage.