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Ryan Robertson

Anchor, Investigative Reporter

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International

Impacts of Ukraine dam destruction will be felt for decades

Jun 08, 2023

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Ryan Robertson

Anchor, Investigative Reporter

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Two days after the Kakhovka Dam in southern Ukraine was destroyed, authorities are still trying to get a handle on just how far-reaching the destruction is and will be. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited some of the flooded regions Thursday to monitor rescue efforts. Russians then started shelling the area, forcing rescuers to jump for cover.

Russia and Ukraine both blame the other for destroying the dam, but Russia has controlled the site for months and Ukraine lacks the means to destroy the dam from the air. Also, all available evidence shows it was destroyed from the inside.

The timing of the dam’s destruction is more than a little peculiar as well. Ukraine was launching probing attacks along the front lines Sunday and Monday, which could have been the start of its much-anticipated counteroffensive. Hours later, the dam was destroyed.

From a purely militaristic standpoint, blowing the dam makes sense for the Russians. At the very least, it impedes Ukraine’s counteroffensive and takes away the possibility of crossing the Dnipro River to attack. Also, instead of focusing purely on its own offensive, Ukraine now has to help the tens of thousands of people and pets displaced by the flooding.

So far, it seems Ukraine is alone in that endeavor. Zelenskyy told reporters he was amazed at the lack of response from international humanitarian organizations. More than 48 hours after the dam’s destruction, neither the Red Cross nor the United Nations had sent help. In addition to the tens of thousands of newly homeless Ukrainians, hundreds of thousands of people now don’t have access to safe drinking water.

The flood waters also displaced buried land mines. When the waters recede, there’s no telling where many of those mines will end up. It’s a deadly problem that could take a decade or more to defuse.

The reservoir created by the Kakhovka Dam fed the cooling lines for the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. There is a pond near the plant that will help, but there’s only enough water in the pond to last a few months according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Beyond the immediate concerns, the full scope of the destruction and the financial costs likely won’t be known for years. More than 260 square miles of Ukraine’s southern region are under water, and more than a million acres of the world’s most productive agricultural land could turn to desert now that it can’t be irrigated. If Ukraine can’t find a way to keep that land producing, millions around the world could starve.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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TWO DAYS AFTER THE KAKHOVKA DAM IN SOUTHERN UKRAINE WAS DESTROYED, AUTHORITIES ARE STILL TRYING TO GET A HANDLE ON JUST HOW FAR-REACHING THE DESTRUCTION IS AND WILL BE. UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY VISITED SOME OF THE FLOODED REGIONS THURSDAY TO MONITOR RESCUE EFFORTS. THE RUSSIANS THEN STARTED SHELLING THE AREA, FORCING RESCUERS TO JUMP FOR COVER.

RUSSIA AND UKRAINE BOTH BLAME THE OTHER FOR DESTROYING THE DAM, BUT RUSSIA HAS CONTROLLED THE SITE FOR MONTHS AND UKRAINE LACKS THE MEANS TO DESTROY THE DAM FROM THE AIR. ALSO, ALL AVAILABLE EVIDENCE SHOWS IT WAS DESTROYED FROM THE INSIDE.

THE TIMING OF THE DAM’S DESTRUCTION IS MORE THAN A LITTLE PECULIAR AS WELL. UKRAINE WAS LAUNCHING PROBING ATTACKS ALONG THE FRONTLINES SUNDAY AND MONDAY, WHICH COULD HAVE BEEN THE START OF ITS MUCH-ANTICIPATED COUNTEROFFENSIVE. HOURS LATER, THE DAM WAS DESTROYED.

FROM A PURELY MILITARISTIC STANDPOINT, BLOWING THE DAM MAKES SENSE FOR THE RUSSIANS. AT THE VERY LEAST, IT IMPEDES UKRAINE’S COUNTEROFFENSIVE AND TAKES AWAY THE POSSIBILITY OF CROSSING THE DNIPRO RIVER TO ATTACK. ALSO, INSTEAD OF FOCUSING PURELY ON ITS OWN OFFENSIVE, UKRAINE NOW HAS TO HELP THE TENS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE AND PETS DISPLACED BY THE FLOODING

AND SO FAR, IT SEEMS UKRAINE IS ALONE IN THAT ENDEAVOR. ZELENSKYY TOLD REPORTERS HE WAS AMAZED AT THE LACK OF RESPONSE FROM INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN ORGANIZATIONS. MORE THAN 48 HOURS AFTER THE DAM’S DESTRUCTION, AND NEITHER THE RED CROSS NOR THE UNITED NATIONS HAVE SENT HELP. IN ADDITION TO THE TENS OF THOUSANDS OF NEWLY HOMELESS UKRAINIANS, HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE NOW DON’T HAVE ACCESS TO SAFE DRINKING WATER.

THE FLOOD WATERS ALSO DISPLACED BURIED LAND MINES. WHEN THE WATERS RECEDE, THERE’S NO TELLING WHERE MANY OF THOSE MINES WILL END UP. IT’S A DEADLY PROBLEM THAT COULD TAKE A DECADE OR MORE TO DEFUSE.

THE RESERVOIR CREATED BY THE KHAKHOVKA DAM FED THE COOLING LINES FOR THE ZAPORIZHZHIA NUCLEAR POWER PLANT. THERE IS A POND NEAR THE PLANT THAT WILL HELP, BUT THERE’S ONLY ENOUGH WATER IN THE POND TO LAST A FEW MONTHS ACCORDING TO THE INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY.

BEYOND THE IMMEDIATE CONCERNS, THE FULL SCOPE OF THE DESTRUCTION AND THE FINANCIAL COSTS LIKELY WON’T BE KNOWN FOR YEARS. MORE THAN 260 SQUARE MILES OF UKRAINE’S SOUTHERN REGION ARE UNDER WATER, AND MORE THAN A MILLION ACRES OF THE WORLD’S MOST PRODUCTIVE AGRICULTURAL LAND COULD TURN TO DESERT NOW THAT IT CAN’T BE IRRIGATED. IF UKRAINE CAN’T FIND A WAY TO KEEP THAT LAND PRODUCING, MILLIONS AROUND THE WORLD COULD STARVE.

FOR MORE UNBIASED, STRAIGHT FACT REPORTING ABOUT THE WAR IN UKRAINE, BE SURE TO CHECK OUT STRAIGHT ARROW NEWS DOT COM.