Destruction of ecosystems, floods, pollution, energy threats… The partial destruction of the Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine constitutes “brutal ecocide” according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Destruction of ecosystems, floods, pollution, energy threats: the destruction of the Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine could have “unprecedented” environmental and human consequences, several experts and defense associations estimate on Wednesday. ‘environment.
According to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who accuses Russia of being “guilty of brutal ecocide”, it “is the biggest man-made environmental disaster in Europe for decades”.
This term ecocide has recently been defined by the European Parliament as any “environmental criminal offense causing serious and widespread or long-lasting or irreversible damage to air, soil or water quality, or to biodiversity, ecosystem services and functions, animals or plants”. At the end of March, Brussels paved the way for the recognition of “ecocide” in EU law.
A “massive mortality of aquatic organisms”
The first consequence, linked to the discharge of the 18 billion tons of water held back by the dam, the Dnieper, the fourth longest river in Europe, will undergo a serious disturbance of its ecosystems up to the coastal areas of the Black Sea, estimates the Ukrainian NGO Ecoaction.
According to her, a “potential massive mortality of aquatic organisms (fish, molluscs, crustaceans, micro-organisms, aquatic vegetation)” but also of rodents, some of which are endemic or already threatened, is expected, “leading to a deterioration in the quality water due to the decomposition of dead organisms”.
Domestic or captive animals are also in danger, underlines the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), which already reports a “disastrous situation”.
“The shelters are already overwhelmed with rescue requests. In Nova Kakhovka (…) a small zoo was completely flooded – all the animals except the swans died,” says Natalia Gozak, a manager of IFAW in Ukraine.
The vegetation will not be spared either, in particular that upstream of the dam which “will die because of the drainage, while the areas located downstream will be flooded, including the steppe and forest complexes which are not adapted to submersion, which which will lead to their clogging and destruction”, foresees Ecoaction.
Massive pollution and threat to fauna and flora
Several Ukrainian national natural parks, including the UNESCO-listed Black Sea Biosphere Reserve, are directly threatened.
Massive pollution from the dumping of garbage, agrochemicals and other hazardous materials, as well as the flooding and disabling of sewage treatment and sewage systems, is also to be expected.
According to Ukrainian officials, 150 tons of motor oil would have spilled into the Dnieper on Tuesday, “with the risk that another 300 tons will infiltrate”, representing “a threat to fauna and flora”.
“More than 40,000 people risk being in flooded areas,” Ukrainian Attorney General Andriï Kostin warned on Tuesday, announcing massive evacuations.
The Kakhovka dam is also used to provide drinking water and irrigation for the southern part of Ukraine, already one of the driest in the country. Its destruction therefore constitutes a major risk for the water supply of millions of people.
“Arid lands, even desert, in the coming months”
This water shortage could lead to the desertification of certain areas, estimates IFAW.
“The rotting biomass of aquatic flora and fauna will turn into arid, even desert lands in the coming months”, anticipates Natalia Gozak, with the consequence of a change in microclimates and temperatures, which could lead to “a wave new climate and water migrants to other parts of Ukraine and Europe”.
The Zaporijjia nuclear power plant, occupied by the Russian army, is once again weakened after the destruction of the dam, whose water is used to cool the fuel and prevent a nuclear accident.
“The cooling of the plant is currently provided by water pumped into basins located on the site, designed for this purpose. There is no short-term risk for the plant”, however reassures the Institute of French radiation protection and nuclear safety (IRSN) this Wednesday.
The fears are more of an economic order: “The absence of cooling for the six reactors means that the plant will not be operational in the foreseeable future, which leads to a loss of approximately 13% of Ukrainian electricity generation capacity” , underlines Malte Janssen, of the University of Sussex Business School.
Damage will also likely affect agriculture and livestock raising, raising fears of a humanitarian disaster. Ukraine is one of the world’s main grain suppliers.
Source: BFM TV