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Ukraine dam's destruction could 'forever' change ecosystems, officials say

By Michael Birnbaum and Evan Halper

07 Jun 2023 · 5 min read

informed Summary

  1. The destruction of the Kakhovka on the front lines of the conflict in Ukraine may have catastrophic consequences for the environment.

The destruction of a major dam and hydroelectric power plant on the front lines of the war in Ukraine may dry up the rich agricultural region of southern Ukraine, sweep pollutants into waterways and upend ecosystems that had developed around the massive reservoir whose waters are now rapidly flooding downstream, although the full impact could take months or even years to understand, officials and experts said.

The escape of the huge store of water from the reservoir will reshape Ukraine's map, its habitats and its livelihood, endangering communities that depend on the water for drinking and growing crops, forcing farmers out of business, pushing towns to relocate and unsettling delicate ecological balances. Ukrainian officials warned that at least 150 tons of oil stored inside the hydroelectric power plant in the Kakhovka dam were washed into the waterway. Water from the reservoir also fed the cooling ponds of Europe's largest nuclear power plant, in Zaporizhzhia, although nuclear experts said there was no immediate threat.

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