As well as causing a humanitarian disaster, the destruction of the Kakhovka dam in Ukraine could affect the country’s exports and have global implications for food security, Ukraine’s Agriculture ministry was quoted as saying in a report by The Guardian on 7 June.
Ukraine has accused Russia of blowing up the dam and deliberately flooding the lower Dnipro River on 6 June to create a water barrier to counter a Ukrainian offensive attack, according to the report.
Russian officials said the flow along the canal had dropped significantly, using this as evidence to back their claim that Ukraine, not Russia, was responsible for the dam’s collapse, the BBC reported on 8 June.
Ukraine’s Agriculture ministry said the loss of water in the reservoir and the four major canals it fed would mean an almost complete loss of irrigation systems in the Kherson region, three-quarters lost in Zaporizhzhia, and one-third lost in Dnipropetrovsk, The Guardian report said.
“The destruction of the Kakhovskaya [dam] will mean that the fields in the south of Ukraine may turn into deserts as early as next year,” the ministry was quoted as saying in a statement.
The Kherson region is one of Ukraine’s most fertile and productive areas, according to the BBC report. In addition to its famous watermelons, the rich farmland either side of the Dnipro River produced a range of crops, from onions and tomatoes to sunflowers, soyabeans and wheat, the report said.
According to analysis on 7 June by columnist Julian Borger published in The Guardian, the loss of the reservoir would not only lead to a drop in available drinking water but would also reduce water to irrigate the agricultural belt in the region.
“A drop of just 1m is enough for traps to run dry. That will have a knock-on effect on food production, and on [Ukrainian] exports of corn, sunflower oil, soyabeans and wheat,” Borger wrote.
UN and European Union (EU) leaders had agreed that Moscow was ultimately responsible for the destruction of the dam, The Guardian wrote.
The White House said it was still investigating but US officials reportedly told NBC News they were leaning towards the Ukrainian version.
UK defence intelligence had given a non-committal account on 7 June, saying the dam had “partially failed” shortly before 3am on 6 June, and that by midday “the entire eastern portion of the dam and much of the hydro and utilities infrastructure was swept away”, the report said. The wording left unclear why the dam had collapsed, if it was done deliberately or had suffered structural weakness. Satellite photos had shown it had sustained minor damage four to five days prior to the breach.
Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had called Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Russia’s president Vladimir Putin on 7 June to propose the creation of an international commission to investigate the causes of the dam’s collapse, The Guardian wrote.