The destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine may deprive Russian-occupied Crimea of vital freshwater supplies for more than a decade, according to the head of the Ukrainian Ecological League.
Following the collapse of the dam—which Kyiv says was an intentional act of sabotage by Russian forces, but in which Moscow denies any involvement—in the early hours of Tuesday has created an environmental disaster in the lower reaches of the Dnieper River, called the Dnipro River in Ukrainian.
Kyiv has started the evacuation of thousands of residents on the west bank of the river, while urging Russian occupation authorities on the east bank to evacuate tens of thousands more.
While both sides grapple with the sudden devastation, the water levels at the Nova Kakhovka reservoir—which is north of the dam and was a source of water for the North Crimean Canal and the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant’s cooling system—are falling rapidly. The Russian state-run Tass news agency reported Wednesday that the water level had already fallen by 3.5 meters (11.4 feet).
Tetyana Tymochko, who also serves as an adviser to Kyiv’s Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources, told independent news outlet Ukrinform that the dam’s destruction was “a result of the terrorist actions of Russian occupiers.”
“This will cause one of the largest man-made disasters in Europe in decades and endanger the lives of thousands of civilians,” Tymochko claimed. “Russian occupiers have caused an artificial uncontrolled flood, which will be accompanied by inundation of settlements and destruction of downstream facilities.”
“This will have huge negative consequences for agriculture throughout the region. Crimea may be left without water for 10-15 years, and possibly forever.”
The North Crimean Canal was dammed by Ukraine in 2014, shortly after Russia seized and annexed Crimea. Before Russia’s 2014 invasion, the canal had supplied around 85 percent of the peninsula’s water, most of which was used for agriculture.
Restoring that water supply was a key objective for Russian units leading the February 2022 drive from Crimea into southern Ukraine. Lead Russian units secured the Nova Kakhovka reservoir and the North Crimean Canal on the first day of the full-scale invasion, restarting water supply to the south just days later.
But now, with falling water levels in the reservoir, that supply is again at risk.
Local officials have been raising alarms, with Vladimir Leontyev, the Russian-installed head of forces in the occupied Kherson region, saying: “The only threat [is] that we will have problems with the supply of water to Crimea,” as quoted by Tass.
Newsweek has contacted the Russian Foreign Ministry to request comment.
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