Image source: DHI A/S
Much of the damage caused by the breach of Ukraine’s Kakhovka dam in June 2023 is irreversible, with likely changes to the environment that could have impacts on ecosystems and human health. These findings are part of an assessment published by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which calls for specific immediate and long-term remediation measures.
The Rapid Environmental Assessment of the Kakhovka Dam Breach, carried out at the request of the Ukrainian Government, concluded that consequences will be felt for decades, reaching far beyond Ukraine’s borders. The assessment was led by experts from 13 institutions, including DHI, and leveraged official data, satellite imagery and remote sensing, while noting challenges in accessing the site that is in a war zone.
The assessment encompasses damage caused both upstream and downstream, including hydrological and geomorphic impacts, chemical contamination, waste, and ecological damage, including to protected areas. The assessment does not address the full impacts on irrigation, drinking water and supply of water to industry – including the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant – and associated human health impacts.
External financial and technical support is urgent and indispensable for the planning and implementation of remediation and restoration actions for the dam. More generally, this breach is a continuation of a wider suite of damage and environmental devastation, previously discussed in a UNEP review of the environmental impact of the war. It will take several assessments and significant funding to address the full scale of environmental impacts within all parts of the affected territory.