As the world waits for evidence and details of what happened to the dam, there is no doubt that it will cause environmental damage. About 600 kilometers of Kherson region is currently under water south of the Dnipro river, says Veremiychyk. And above the dam, much of the water has now receded, leaving a desert full of polluted dust, he adds.
A The video was shared online and President Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, shows what appear to be thousands of floating fish stranded on dry land near the village of Maryanske, which is north of the Kakhovka Reservoir. According to the Ministry of Agriculture of Ukraine, 95,000 tons of fish could be lost. Ministry of Health of Ukraine posted a warning on Facebook advising people not to eat fish caught in flood waters. “There is a risk of botulism,” the post read, referring to a rare but serious condition caused by a toxin released by several types of bacteria.
In the path of the floodwaters are houses, fields, marshes, wetlands, and zoos. Many of the wildlife that live in these areas will probably disappear, says Veremiychyk: “It will be a huge loss.”
Non-governmental organizations and research groups in Ukraine have reported the impact on the environment. In a lengthy blog post, the Ukrainian Nature Conservation Group (UNCG) describes how many species of fish will be affected. Birds that depend on water and wetlands, including the beautiful Eurasian spoonbill, reptiles such as the Caspian whipsnake, and vulnerable animals such as the Nordmann’s mouse are also considered endangered. “These animals,” the bloggers wrote, “have no means of survival in the turbulent flow.”
Turnbull says that environmental groups in Ukraine are already documenting many of the environmental incidents of the war to gather hard evidence and document the damage to the environment. We can expect to see reports detailing the consequences of the dam breach in the coming months and years.
What is clear is the wide geographical spread of the disaster. Doug Weir, director of research and policy at the Conflict and Environment Observatory, has been looking at satellite images of areas that were flooded below the dam. “There is significant oil, or what appears to be oil, in the Kherson region, which appears to be coming from some of the industrial buildings there,” he says. “It’s the accident we were expecting.”
He added that sewage from septic tanks and wastewater treatment plants could also be washed on land. Kristina Hook, a Ukraine and Russia expert at Kennesaw State University, agrees that pollution is dangerous. He said: “You see dangerous and dirty water.” And all this is happening right after many animals breed in the spring, he adds. This part of the world, which is the Eurasian Steppe, which stretches from Hungary to eastern China, has grasslands, mountains, and in many areas there are many species of animals.