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Ukraine’s Nova Kakhovka Dam Disaster: Key Points on the Strategically Important Reservoir

In recent events, the Nova Kakhovka Dam in Ukraine has suffered a catastrophic blow, leading to concerns of devastating flooding. Ukraine’s military command has accused Russia of causing the explosion, given the dam’s strategic significance. This article provides a brief overview of the Nova Kakhovka Dam, its importance, previous threats, and the ongoing situation.

Significance of Nova Kakhovka Dam:

The Nova Kakhovka Dam is situated on the Dnipro River in southern Ukraine. Constructed in 1956 as part of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant, it holds back a massive reservoir of water, estimated to contain 18 cubic kilometers, similar in volume to Utah’s Great Salt Lake. The dam’s destruction would have severe repercussions locally and affect Ukraine’s broader war effort.

Ukraine's Nova Kakhovka Dam Disaster
Ukraine’s Nova Kakhovka Dam Disaster

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Impact and Repercussions:

The immediate consequences of the dam’s destruction include the potential flooding of settlements downstream, including Kherson, which Ukraine recaptured in 2022. Moreover, the water from the reservoir supplies the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014, and the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Europe’s largest. Additionally, the dam’s destruction worsens Ukraine’s energy problems and jeopardizes the canal system that irrigates southern Ukraine, including Crimea.

Previous Threats and Damage:

Ever since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Nova Kakhovka Dam has been considered a potential target due to its strategic significance and the catastrophic impact its destruction would have. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy had previously warned the West about the potential flooding caused by blowing up the dam. In November, after recapturing parts of Kherson, damage to the dam was observed, with Russia accusing Ukraine of shelling it during their campaign.

Recent Developments:

In May, nearby villagers reported ongoing flooding, attributing it to Russia’s occupation of Nova Kakhovka. The water level of the Dnipro River had been rising since April, sometimes by up to 30cm per day, leading to elevated levels that caused flooding in the Zaporizhzhia region. Ukrainian officials linked the increased water levels to Russia’s occupation of the dam, though they lacked direct access to confirm the activities at the site.

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