Oskil Reservoir before and after the dam destruction during the Ukraine war
Sep 2023

Oskil River drainage seen from space

Ukraine war: Oskil dam destruction

Looking at Ukraine with Nimbo : the near-empty Oskil Reservoir, close to the limit between Kharkiv and Donestk oblasts. Local reports claim the dam was blown up by retreating Russian forces in late March 2022.

Water reached low levels across the 125 km-long Oskil reservoir after water ran through the damaged dam south, also leading to the flooding of several towns downstream. This had a massive impact on the reservoir’s ecosystem, including the death of an estimated 2 million fishes.

Oskil dam destruction: a blessing in disguise ?

However, 18 months after the event, local eco-activists tend to emphasize silver linings to this act of war. Thanks to the dam’s destruction and subsequent reservoir drainage, the area is gradually returning to its original overall condition. The disappearance of the man-made, soviet-era reservoir has indeed restored Oskil River and its tributaries to their hydrological regimes. The now-exposed depths of the reservoir are covered by dozens of plant species, while endemic fauna has begun returning to its natural habitats.

Of reservoirs and men

Nature does seem to prevail in the end. However, as the war still rages on, little is known yet about the impact of the reservoir’s drainage on human activity : power generation, agriculture or fishing, to name a few. While it is hard to draw definitive conclusions when such an event occurs brutally in a war context, the Oskil episode certainly provides food for thought about the drainage of artificial reservoirs to restore natural habitats.

Nimbo Earth Online with modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2021-2023)