The collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine has sparked fears of an ecological catastrophe, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky describing the situation as “an environmental bomb of mass destruction.”
Water levels on Wednesday continued to rise after the Russian-occupied dam and hydro-electric power plant was destroyed early Tuesday, forcing more than 1,400 people to flee their homes and threatening vital water supplies as flooding inundated towns, cities and farmland.
Kyiv and Moscow have traded accusations over the dam’s destruction, without providing concrete proof that the other is culpable. It is not yet clear whether the dam was deliberately attacked or whether the breach was the result of structural failure.
Zelensky, however, said Russia bears “criminal liability” and Ukrainian prosecutors are investigating the dam incident as a case of “ecocide.”
“The consequences of the tragedy will be clear in a week. When the water goes away, it will become clear what is left and what will happen next,” he said.
Concerns are now turning to the dangers to wildlife, farmlands, settlements and water supplies from the floodwaters and possible contamination from industrial chemicals and oil leaked from the hydropower plant into the Dnipro River.
The head of Ukraine’s main hydropower generating company told CNN the environmental consequences from the breach will be “significant” and damaged equipment at the plant could be leaking oil.
“First of all, the Kakhovka reservoir is likely to be drained to zero, and we understand that the number of fish will gradually go down,” said Ihor Syrota, the CEO of Ukrhydroenergo.
“Four-hundred tons of turbine oil is always there, in the units and in the block transformers that are usually installed on this equipment,” Syrota said. “It all depends on the level of destruction of the units and this equipment… If the damage is extensive, then all the oil will leak out.”
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