While Russian media continue to spread hype about the Ukrainian government cutting off Crimea’s water supply, evidence mounts that this is no more than a media provocation to cover the incompetence of officials from the self-proclaimed “Republic of Crimea.”
In a UNN interview, Kherson Governor Yuriy Odarchenko explained that water was not reaching Crimea though the North Crimean Canal because of incompetence on the part of those who seized the Crimean portion of the system.
Odarchenko went on to describe the way system works: the North Crimean Canal starts to be filled with water in the second week of March and operates in this mode until December. But this year, the canal’s operation was disrupted because of poor management on the part of the new staff running the Crimean portion of the canal. The canal is about 400 km long, including 300 km on the Crimean Peninsula and 100 km in Kherson Oblast. The canal is used to both fill reservoirs and provide irrigation.
“This year, the water supply to Crimea was released on March 19. At the same time, the irrigation of the channel had just begun,” said Odarchenko.
“After the referendum conducted in Crimea, representatives of the puppet government began seizing the facilities of the North Crimean Canal like gangsters,” Governor Odarchenko explained. “Our people were barred from working there. After we lost the chance to undertake maintenance, water began to flow by gravity. This means that, over the first 200 km of the canal, the water flows by itself, due to the incline. But, even though the water is flowing, they are unable to raise it in their pumping plants. And so, after the water passes those pumping stations, it dries up. The channel is almost completely dried up now.”
The Governor noted that, even if Crimeans found specialists who could begin immediate work on the canal, they would need more than a month to properly irrigate the channel bed. And only after that could the water be channeled through the system,
“The blame for water not being transferred to Crimea falls primarily on those people who seized the facilities of the North Crimean Canal and are unable to operate them,” said Odarchenko.
Odarchenko also said that Crimea was unwilling to pay for water and was making this obvious. The Crimean side has not yet signed a contract with Ukraine for supplying water and servicing the canal. As of January 1, 2014, Crimea also owes Ukraine several million hryvnia for water previously delivered. The Governor also noted that the canal’s poor operation also affected the operation of Kakhovka hydroelectric station, causing significant losses in power output.
Ukraine’s Water Resources Agency has officially stated that the flow of water to Crimea from the Dnipro River through the North Crimean Canal was not stopped on the Ukrainian side. On the contrary, the Agency said, the unauthorized siphoning off of water has been taking place at the #2 lock, with a flow rate of 13.8 cu m/sec. It added that no specific proposals regarding further contracts to supply Crimea’s water needs had been received. The Agency noted that Crimea’s debt to Ukraine for water supplies stood at UAH 1.7 million. According to the WRA, the North Crimean Canal operates, with a water flow of 60.8 cu m/sec at the canal’s head.
Meanwhile, hackers from Anonymous have come up with evidence that Russia is behind the canal’s low water levels. They claim that the Russian authorities have shut off the pumps in northern Crimea, between Armiansk and Dzhankoi: “The water needs pumps to keep it moving. But instead Aksionov has been screaming that Ukrainians shut the water off, so that Crimeans will blame Ukrainians, and Russians will think that Ukraine is to blame for everything.” They say that Russia’s Channel 1 has already aired multiple reports that the Ukrainian authorities had shut off Crimea’s water.
As reported earlier, Russia invaded Crimea at the end of February, supporting a separatist movement inspired by pro-Russian organizations and other ‘agents of influence.’
After an unrecognized referendum, the puppet government of Crimea signed an agreement to join the Russian Federation on March 18.
Translated by Alya Shandra, edited by Robin Rohrback and Lidia Wolanski