Repairing irrigation infrastructure in southern Ukraine could take years, minister says
Photo: Ministry of Agrarian Policy

After the explosion of the Kakhovka HPP, the problem of irrigation will become the biggest in agriculture, as well as in the ecological and social spheres in the south of Ukraine. The Minister of Agriculture, Mykola Solskyi, stated on national television.

Restoration of the irrigation system should become a priority. According to the minister, it will take three to seven years.

The Kakhovka canal irrigated half a million hectares of land. But the problem is wider and the lands that did not have irrigation systems will also suffer, the minister explained.

Farmers and agricultural enterprises in this zone cultivated part of the land under irrigation. Since they received their main and stable income from crops from fields that had irrigation systems, now farmers will have nothing to cultivate the land.

"Not half a million hectares, but one and a half million hectares will not be fully used. It will take 3-5-7 years to restore irrigation. And this should become a priority. Because this is not only an issue of agribusiness, and ecology, but also a social one," emphasized Solskyi.

Reference. According to the Ministry of Agrarian Policy, the man-made disaster at the Kakhovka HPP will stop the water supply of 31 field irrigation systems in the Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhya oblasts. In 2021, these systems provided irrigation for 584,000 hectares, from which about 4 million tons of grain and oil crops were harvested, worth about $1.5 billion.

In 2023, only 13 irrigation systems were operating on the west bank of the Dnipro.

The explosion of the Kakhovka HPP effectively left 94% of irrigation systems in Kherson Oblast, 74% in Zaporizhzhya Oblast, and 30% in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast without a water source. The destruction of the Kakhovka HPP will lead to the fact that the fields in the south of Ukraine may turn into deserts as early as next year.

The minister noted that farmers maintain social life in the surrounding villages, pay taxes, pay landlords for shares — and these are mostly elderly people.

Solskyi added that the Kakhovka Reservoir was the source for two irrigation and water supply systems - the Kakhovka system and the North Crimean Canal. These systems were built with water levels in mind to use minimal electricity for the pumps. Now the water level has dropped, so it does not enter the systems.

"It is basically impossible to raise the water level now. It is clear that there will not be enough water intake for several years," the minister said.

Ukrhydroenergo stated that the Kakhovka HPP was completely destroyed after the explosion and cannot be restored.

Ukraine is urgently starting the construction of new water mains to Kryvyi Rih, Nikopol, Marhanets, Tomakivka, Maryanske and Pokrov, which were previously supplied with water from the Kakhovka Reservoir.

Fish began to die in the Kakhovka Reservoir due to shallowing. Losses to the fishing industry from the death of only adults can reach 95,000 tons, or about UAH 4 billion ($108 million).

The destruction of the Kakhovka HPP and the flooding of the territories will also cause significant losses to "green" energy.