Jannah Theme License is not validated, Go to the theme options page to validate the license, You need a single license for each domain name.

How the Khakova Dam disaster continues to devastate Ukraine

The sunset along the Kakhovka Reservoir in central Ukraine was once beautiful, especially in summer: children played in the shallow water near the shore, men fished and young couples walked under the pine trees as the last traces of the sun reflected on the water.

But after the destruction of a major dam just downstream, this shimmering lake, one of the largest in Europe, simply disappeared. Only a 240 kilometer long meadow remains.

For more than 60 years, the Bezhan family operated a fishing business on these shores. They bought boats, nets, freezers and huge rumbling ice machines, and generation after generation lived off the fish. But now there are no more fish.

“If the war ended tomorrow, and I don’t think it will,” said Serhii Bezhan, the family’s broad-chested patriarch, “it would take five years to rebuild this dam, and then at least two years more for the tank to fill up. . Then it would take another 10 years for the fish to grow – for some species, 20 years.

He looked away as his eyes clouded over.

“I’m 50,” he says softly. “I don’t know if I’ll be here that long.”

On June 6, seismic counters hundreds of kilometers away detected a huge explosion at the Kakhovka Dam along the Dnipro River. The reinforced concrete walls, more than 60 feet high and 100 feet thick, collapsed and 4.8 trillion gallons of water gushed out.

Scientific evidence indicates that the dam was destroyed from within, almost certainly by the Russian forces occupying it. In one fell swoop, they triggered epic floods in Ukraine and an ensuing drought, which together caused a staggering level of destruction to the environment, the economy and the lives of civilians already endured by the hardships. of the war.

This summer, a team of New York Times reporters traveled hundreds of miles from Zaporizhzhia in central Ukraine to Odessa on the Black Sea to assess the full impact of this disaster. What we found were houses still sodden and covered in mud; dead fish lie en masse; underwater snail colonies destroyed; a drinking water crisis; an irrigation crisis for farmers; whole communities out of work; and a gaping sense of loss whose dimensions have not yet been established.

During this war, the Russians deliberately bombed power plants and grain silos, not lacking in scorched earth brutality. But the destruction of the Kakhovka dam is perhaps the most devastating and punitive blow, even if the military intention was to flood the area and slow down the Ukrainian troops. According to the Ukrainians, the Russian invaders are simply expressing their hatred for the land – and the people – they claim as their own.

It was a “katastrofa”, Mr. Bezhan said.

With no fish to catch, his family was relegated to picking fruit from their orchard and selling it along the road.

Dmytro Neveselyi, the towering young mayor of Zelenodolsk, looks more like a professional basketball player than the city administrator of a small town in the heartland of Ukraine. One afternoon this summer, he leaned over his desk and unfurled a map from World War II.

Mr. Neveselyi and other civic leaders combed through old maps like this one to locate wells and other possible sources of water that this area used when there was no dam.

“It’s from the Nazis,” he explained with a touch of amusement. “This is the last good picture we have of this area before the dam was built.”

The Kakhovka Dam was an engineering marvel of its time, a gigantic project emblematic of the Soviet will to build bigger, if not always better. Completed in 1956, the hydroelectric dam blocked the Dnipro River to generate electricity. The water that accumulated created the Kakhovka Reservoir, which irrigated farms and provided drinking water to growing cities in central Ukraine.

When the reservoir dried up, much of Ukraine was left without running water. People stopped doing laundry. Some even used plastic bags to go to the toilet.

Since then, some water supply services have been restored by connecting pipes to other much smaller reservoirs. But thousands of people still lack clean water and are at the mercy of circulating water tankers.

The search for alternative water sources therefore continues.

The map Mr Neveselyi opened on his desk was a startlingly clear black-and-white aerial photo taken by the Luftwaffe, Germany’s air force, which was eventually discovered by US researchers and published online.

All of this seems hard to believe, he says.

“I’ve spent my whole life by the water,” he says as he walks along the parched shores of the lake. “I still don’t believe what I actually see.”

The vast agricultural heartland around the reservoir annually produces more than eight billion pounds of wheat, corn, soybeans and sunflowers and 80 percent of Ukraine’s vegetables, Ukrainian authorities said. The reservoir was largely responsible for this, irrigating over 2,000 square miles.

“I don’t want to be too pessimistic,” said Volodymyr Halia, a commercial farmer near the town of Apostolove. “But I haven’t heard any solution for irrigation. These farms will dry up if we don’t rebuild the dam.

For the moment, it is impossible. The Russians still control the area.

The losses therefore continue to accumulate. Farmers in this area exported their grain on river barges that moored along the banks of the reservoir. The docks are still there. But instead of towering over water, they ride miles of mud.

It is difficult to know how much the break of the dam will be a “katasrofa”. The Kyiv School of Economics, as well as the Ukrainian government, estimate that the attack cost at least $2 billion in direct losses, a toll that will most likely increase over time.

“People were already very tired and stressed after a year of war,” said Tamara Nevdah, a local official who lives near the reservoir. “When this happened, people felt as horrible and demoralized as on the first day of the war. »

“And they are still in shock,” she added.

The Kahovka Reservoir was a paradise for birds. It served as a waypoint for migratory species on their journeys from northern climes to Africa. Islands in the lake and swampy areas downriver were nesting sites for great blue herons, glossy ibis, Eurasian spoonbills and others, said ecologist and zoologist Oleksii Vasyliuk.

But when the torrent of water poured downstream, it destroyed countless nesting sites, and the birds that nested near the lake also disappeared.

“We have lost an entire generation,” Mr. Vasyliuk said.

Ukrainian environmentalists are also concerned about a rare species of ant that lived in the Lower Dnipro National Nature Park, where parts of the swamp have been washed away, and Nordmann’s birch mouse, a small endangered mammal. the steppe whose habitat in the Oleshky Sands National Park Nature Park was submerged by flood waters.

In Odessa, 90 miles west of where the Dnipro flows into the Black Sea, Vladyslav Balinskyi, an environmentalist, walked along the shore, staring at bathers.

“No one should swim,” he said. “They don’t know what’s in that water.”

He spoke of the pollutants that the flood had dumped into the sea: cadmium, strontium, mercury, lead, pesticides, fertilizers and 150 tons of machine oil used in the huge gears of the hydroelectric plant.

Almost every day he dives to study the impact on marine life.

“Fifty percent of the mussels are already dead,” he said.

Liudmyla Mavrych stood in her living room, holding a soggy album. A village worker, she spent much of her life in the same small house in Afanansiivka, a pretty, quiet hamlet along a tributary of the Dnipro below the dam.

The wallpaper was peeling off her walls. The linoleum was peeling off his counters. Mud was spread on its floors. The whole house smelled of old moldy rags.

The floodwaters had engulfed his house, like thousands of others.

“No need,” she said, pulling wet, sticky photos from an album. One by one, she threw them to the ground.

“We lost our home, we lost everything we owned and now we don’t even have any memories,” she said, growing more upset as she quickly flipped through the damp photo album. “All gone. Nothing. Trash.”

Kherson, a port city on the west bank of the Dnipro, was one of the most flood-ravaged areas in Ukrainian-held territory. Photos from those early days show roofs sticking out of the water.

But it is on the other bank, the east bank, occupied by Russian troops, that many people are said to have died.

Mykhailo Puryshev, an experienced aid worker, was one of the few Ukrainian civilians who dared to rescue people from the Russian side. According to video footage and an interview he gave, he raced across the river in a pink boat wearing a pink helmet.

“I wanted to make sure the Russians saw me so they didn’t shoot me,” he said.

When he arrived in Oleshky, in Russian-held territory, he saw people standing on their roofs, surrounded by water, waving white flags and shouting, “Help!

According to Ukrainian and Russian authorities, dozens of people died on the east bank of the river. Mr Puryshev said some were disabled people who had drowned in their homes.

He saved 10 children and two dogs and then got out.

“The Russians did nothing,” he said. “I didn’t see any soldiers anywhere.”

Oleksandra Mykolychyne And Evelina Ryabenko contributed to reporting from several sites affected by the destruction of the dam.

nytimes Eur

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.

Back to top button