Kakhovka dam breach could be Ukraine's worst ecological disaster since Chernobyl, says minister

According to various media sources, the recent flooding from the damaged Kakhovka dam could be as serious an ecological disaster as Chernobyl in 1986.
Christopher McFadden
Some fear the flooding could cause serious ecological damage.

Getty Images 

Following the tragic failure of the Kakhovka dam on the Dnipro River in Ukraine, environmental experts and scientists have blown the whistle on the potential environmental impact of the incident. One former Ukrainian minister has even described the dam breach as the nation's worst ecological disaster since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the 1980s.

Following the partial collapse of one of the world's largest dams, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the Guardian reports, convened an emergency security council meeting. The nation's public prosecutor is currently investigating a potential case of "ecocide." While Ukraine and Russia are pointing fingers at each other for the floods following damage to the dam, the ecosystem downstream, experts warn, could be severely impacted.

According to experts interviewed by The Guardian, the severity of the impact caused by the recent incident will depend upon the volume of water released and the extent of damage to the barrier. However, the situation has already displaced thousands of individuals, flooding national parks, and endangerment of the water supply for millions. In a worst-case scenario, there could be long-term ramifications for the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Europe's largest, and contamination of the Black Sea with hazardous agro-toxins and petrochemicals.

According to a tweet from the International Energy Agency, their specialists at Zaporizhzhia, located 100 miles (160 km) upstream, are closely monitoring the situation. They reassured the public that the nuclear plant does not pose an immediate safety risk, as the cooling pools are currently filled.

However, if the reservoir behind the dam is significantly drained in the future, it may become challenging to refill the cooling system and run the diesel generators.

“This will [impact] Romania, Georgia, Turkey, and Bulgaria. It will be harmful to the entire region,” Ukraine's Former minister of ecology, Ostap Semerak, said. “Our government has announced this is the biggest environmental catastrophe in Europe over the past ten years, and I think it may be the worst in Ukraine since Chornobyl in 1986,” he added.

According to Zelenskiy, the turbine room at the hydropower plant has already been submerged under water, resulting in the loss of 150 tonnes of industrial lubricants. This unfortunate incident is likely to cause severe harm to aquatic life, including fish, mollusks, and other species, and disrupt their habitats. Furthermore, it is expected to have negative impacts on ecologically significant national parks such as Nyzhniodniprovs’kyi, Kam’yanska Sich, Biloberizhzhia Sviatoslava, the Black Sea Biosphere Reserve (a Unesco biosphere reserve), and the Kinburn Spit Regional Landscape Park.

Furthermore, it has been stated that landmines will be relocated and concealed by silt, rendering them more difficult to detect and disassemble. “This is [a huge] disaster, but it is too early to assess the impact and difficult to compare with what has happened before,” said Denys Tsutsaiev from Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe. “We don’t know how much the dam is damaged,” he added.

Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron
Job Board