What Will Be the Impact of Russia's Devastating Ecocide of Kakhovka Dam?

June 7, 2023
By blowing up the Nova Kakhovka Dam, Russia has caused a new unprecedented disaster in Ukraine.
Photo credit: Screenshot from video. Zelensky

What will be the consequences of this crime for the environment, energy, cities, industry and agriculture in Ukraine?

UkraineWorld spoke with several Ukrainian experts to learn more.


Anatoliy Pavelko, lawyer, and environmental scientist at Human Rights Organization "Environment-People-Law".

The explosion of the dam can lead to the disruption and destruction of the Kakhovka Reservoir ecosystem and all ecosystems located in Dnipro below the Kakhovka dam.

  • Water pollution. Garbage, wastewater, and agrochemicals from flooded areas might get to Dnipro River with the water flow, and then it can get to Dnipro Estuary, and, finally, to the Black Sea.

It is likely to worsen the problem of water supply from the Dnipro River, because conventional water purification methods may not be sufficient for this scale of pollution.

  • Fauna. The habitat for aquatic biota is disrupted. The flood wave leads to washing away of all living things that are not able to move in the rapid current. Semi-aquatic animals suffer as well, because of the flooding of their habitat. Thus, a number of species can die.
  • Mine threat. The flood wave might complicate the situation with mining. Some of the mines located in the coastal areas of Kherson Oblast may be washed away and drift to other places. Collision with other objects washed away by the flood wave can lead to detonation.


Anton Antonenko, Vice President of the DiXi Group

Any predictions about further developments surrounding the destruction of Nova Kakhovka dam are extremely complicated, as it is the biggest technological disaster in the last decade, which, in addition, was purposefully organized.

Additionally, Ukraine's access to the site is hampered, making it impossible to properly assess the situation. As a result, Ukraine will have to monitor the extent of water spill over the next few days, which will shape the understanding of the disaster's impact on the following factors.

  • First, the water supply of the Zaporizhzhia NPP. For the time being, it would be premature to declare the situation critical because the NPP has fail-safe systems in place. However, the unpredictability of the Russian occupants' behavior at the NPP remains an issue.
  • Secondly, the drop in the water level in the reservoir will affect access to fresh water in three or four oblasts of Ukraine's south.
  • Finally, there is a risk that certain energy system facilities -- like Kherson TPP -- will be flooded. 

The destruction of the dam can be qualified as ecocide and genocide because Russia would have known that people would lose their homes, that the water would be contaminated with grease and waste washed out from the HPP, and that many living organisms would die.

Fresh water is the lifeblood of many enterprises, the majority of which are agricultural in Ukraine's south. Prices for agriproducts are already seeing a rise in International markets as a response to the news.

Additionally, Ukraine may face worsened navigation conditions in the affected section of the Dnipro River, affecting cargo shipping. For instance, a grain transshipment terminal owned by the Ukrainian agro company "Nibulon" was flooded and will require restoration.

Managing the region's economy in the long run is depends heavily on how quickly Ukraine regains control of these territories. Specific challenges would include restoring water supply, reviving the agro sector and providing water to a de-occupied Crimea.

Finally, the backbone of the economy is the people. The question now is whether pending evacuation of affected areas will result in migration. Hence, Ukraine is eager to repatriate its citizens who migrated abroad, because a functioning economy will be key for Ukraine's restoration.

Victoria Voytsitska, former Ukrainian MP and Secretary of the Rada's Committee on Fuel, Energy, Nuclear Policies, & Security

With the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka Dam, Russia has created three sets of problems: the direct consequences of the dam and its hydro plant being destroyed, nuclear safety issues, and water supplies to Crimea.

For the energy sector, the destruction of the dam is not going to have major consequences beyond the loss of electricity in residential areas due to the flooding. The hydro plant has not been generating any energy since the start of the full-scale invasion.

For the moment, the Zaporizhzhia NPP has enough water supplies for cooling purposes. Moreover, unless the summer temperatures are extremely high and greatly accelerate water evaporation, the water supplies at the NPP will be sufficient for a long time.

Additionally, Ukraine has several alternative protocols for water supply at the NPP that were designed during its construction. The first is the use of mobile pumping stations with hoses that allow the intake of water from the Dnipro River.

However, the use of this protocol will require significant Russian goodwill, because the procedure will require the de-mining of the part of the Dnipro's left bank where the NPP is located. International pressure on Russia would be critical here.

An alternative but somewhat less sustainable option is the use of wells and sources located around the NPP for the replenishment of its water reservoirs.

Regarding water supplies to Crimea, Russia may have assessed Ukraine's chances of retaking the peninsula as high and decided to potentially leave Ukraine with a largely uninhabitable peninsula with extremely difficult conditions for agriculture and industry.

Cities, Agriculture, Industry

Vitaliy Selyk, co-founder of the Brave to Rebuild Volunteer Initiative

Russia has triggered a chain of catastrophic events by blowing up the Kakhovka dam.

This crime is equivalent to the worst war crimes, such as launching a nuclear weapon or blowing up a nuclear power plant. The south and southeast of Ukraine are going to be heavily affected.

Ukrhydroenergo projects that the water level in the south of Kherson Oblast will increase over the next four days. Vast areas are likely to be flooded, up to Kinburn Spit and Mykolaiv. Thus, a large number of households, animals, and farms are under threat.

The area is facing water supply problems. Since Kakhovka Reservoir provided surrounding regions (Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, and Dnipropetrovsk Oblasts) with drinking water, it being drained will cause water shortage.

Kryvyi Rih already lacks 75% of its water supply.

The situation with agriculture is going to be difficult. All the fields in the area were irrigated from the Kakhovka reservoir.

Ukraine may suffer losses of up to 15% of its agricultural output from this area.

A number of factories which require a large amount of water were connected to the Kakhovka reservoir, including ones in Marhanets, Nikopol, Pokrovsk, and Kryvyi Rih. They could face problems continuing operations.

Ukraine is likely to have a demographic problem. Maksym Soroka, an expert ecologist, projects that there could be up to 400,000 internal refugees. In the long term, this number could grow to 1.5 million.

This will be caused by loss of housing, the decrease in available drinking water, higher rates of unemployment, and microclimate changes. The region will become less habitable if the reservoir is not restored.