Tens of thousands of civilians in Ukraine are in danger on the frontline after the collapse of the Kakhovka dam, which triggered a blame game between Russia and Ukraine.
The Soviet-era Nova Kakhovka dam on the Dnipro Rivergot damaged on June 6, unleashing floodwaters across the war-torn zone. Thousands of people have already been reportedly evacuated, with towns downstream inundated with water.
THE BLAME GAME
While Ukraine claimed Russia had caused this destruction, Russian officials claimed it was destroyed by Ukrainian shelling.
Lashing out at Ukraine, Russia’s UN Ambassador VassilyNebenzia accusing it of trying to create “favourable opportunities” for it to regroup its military units to continue a counter offensive.
“The deliberate sabotage undertaken by Kyiv against a critical infrastructure facility is extremely dangerous and can essentially be classified as a war crime or an act of terrorism,” Nebenzia told the council.
Ukrainian President VolodymyrZelensky called it “the largest man-made environmental disaster in Europe in decades”. : The disaster at the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant caused by Russian terrorists will not stop Ukraine and Ukrainians. We will still liberate all our land. And each Russian act of terrorism increases only the amount of reparations that Russia will pay for its crimes, not the chances of the occupiers to stay on our land,” he said.
“The fact that Russia deliberately destroyed the Kakhovka reservoir, which is critically important, in particular, for providing water to Crimea, indicates that the Russian occupiers have already realized that they will have to flee Crimea as well.”
“Well, Ukraine will get back everything that belongs to it. And it will make Russia pay for what it has done,” the president said.
NUCLEAR PLANT CONCERNS
According to the UN’s nuclear watchdog, IAEA, the damage to the dam has already led to a “significant” reduction in the level of the reservoir that supplies the ZNPP.
IAEA chief Rafael Grossi warned that the “absence of cooling water in the essential cooling water systems for an extended period of time would cause fuel melt and inoperability of the plant’s emergency diesel generators”.
While there was no “immediate risk” to the plant’s safety, as the supply of cooling water from the reservoir “should last for a few days”, the agency’s monitors present at Zaporizhzhya, which is occupied by Russia but operated by Ukrainian civilians, continue to monitor closely the rate at which the reservoir level is falling.
Grossi also said that a “large cooling pond” next to the ZNPP could potentially provide an alternative source of water, which Ukrainian authorities confirmed later, according to news reports. But he insisted that it was “vital” that this cooling pond remains intact.
THE UNITED NATIONS
UN Secretary General AntónioGuterresdescribed the incident as a “monumental humanitarian, economic and environmental catastrophe” resulting directly from Russia’s invasion of the country.
UN Secretary-General AntónioGuterres, told reporters in New York outside the Security Council that the UN had no access to independent information to verify how the catastrophe had occurred.
“But one thing is clear: this is another devastating consequence of the Russian invasion of Ukraine”, he said, whose effects are being seen in dozens of towns and cities along the Dnipro River.
At least 16,000 have already lost their homes he said, assuring that the UN and partners were rushing support to the affected areas, including drinking water, purification tablets, “and other critical assistance.”
He said the tragedy “was yet another example of the horrific price of war on people. The floodgates of suffering have been overflowing for more than a year, and that must stop”, along with all attacks on civilians and infrastructure.
“Above all, I appeal for a just peace, in line with the UN Charter, international law, and the resolutions of the General Assembly”, he concluded.
In a tweet, the President of the UN General Assembly, CsabaKőrösi, said he stood in solidarity with those suffering the effects of the disaster in the Kherson region, adding that “intentional attacks to cause long-term and severe damage to the natural environment, are war crimes.”
UN HUMAN RIGHTS
The UN human rights office, OHCHR, said that civilians’ rights to housing, health and livelihoods, along with access to clean water and a health environment, were all at risk, calling for a full investigation into the disaster, and accountability.
UN relief chief Martin Griffiths said it was already clear that it would have “grave and far-reaching consequences for thousands of people in southern Ukraine, on both sides of the frontline, through the loss of homes, food, safe water and livelihoods.”
The resevoir is a lifeline he said, for the whole region. Ukrainian authorities are reporting that 40 settlements have already been flooded or partially-flooded, with that figure expected to rise.
The UN is still unable to gain access to Russian controlled regions, he told ambassadors.
He said the UN was complementing the efforts of the Ukrainian Government, and was sending power generators, sanitation and mobile drinking water supplies, and multidisciplinary mobile teams were also being deployed to train and bus stations to support evacuation.
NOVA KAKHOVKA DAM
Build in 1956 on the Dnipro River as part of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant, Nova Kakhovka dam is 30 meters (98 feet) tall and 3.2 km (2 miles) long. It holds an 18 km3 reservoir – a volume almost equal to the Great Salt Lake in Utah, United States.
The reservoir also supplies water to the Crimean peninsula and to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant. Russia claims to have annexed this peninsula in 2014. The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant is also under Russian control.