How to use this document
If the crisis in eastern Ukraine worsens, the appropriate one-page response plan in this document will form the basis for discussions by WASH cluster partners, within 24 hours, to help decide which partner will do what; or; and how much funding is needed overall.
Background and risk summary
In 2021, seven years after the start of the conflict, 3.1 million people still need WASH support in the eastern conflict zone of Ukraine, an increase of around 300,000 people from 2020. This is significantly due to the COVID-19 pandemic: at the end of 2020, around 1.85 million people in the conflict zone specifically needed assistance to improve their level of hygiene and understand the risks. of COVID-19.
Previously identified water and sanitation needs remain and have intensified in 2020. Several agencies are also now targeting improved solid waste and medical waste management, as well as improved health care supplies. water. There is still a need for small-scale support, for example through water truck transport, but also significant support to water companies working on a larger scale, for example to initiate rehabilitation works and abatement approaches. disaster risk (DRR) for some war victims. pipelines and pumping stations, and within specific communities. Meanwhile, in a country where winter temperatures regularly drop to -20 C, one should not forget the connection between water supply and heating: if the water systems are shut down, the centralized heating of the multi-story buildings, where many elderly and vulnerable people live, will also stop.
There are risks of industrial pollution incidents: the conflict zone is highly industrialized, with coal mines, steelworks and chemical factories. There are both chronic and acute pollution risks from mining water effluents; subsidence causing ruptured water and sewer pipes; and pollution of rivers by wastewater effluents and / or effluents from waste ponds from chemical plants. In particular, the waste lagoon of the Toretsk phenol plant is located on the front line, and there is a risk, either due to the bombings or the lack of maintenance of the dam, of pollution of the Siverski Donets river, which would negatively affect the Luhansk oblast as well as the Federation, further downstream. Drinking water quality turned out to be an issue in 2020, with lead and zinc detected in raw water samples and low levels of chlorine in tap water at the household level.
In times of crisis, some agglomerations have back-up tanks, for example Avdiivka has a back-up supply of 3 to 4 days in winter, or 1 to 2 days in summer when the use is higher, but of other places currently have no relief supplies: Volnovakha, Dokuchaievsk and Pokrovsk face this risk. When the water is cut off, people resort to alternative water sources, relying on purchased bottled water, water supply by truck or local wells. Attempts to repair power lines or pipes damaged by the shells often fail because the windows of silence do not fit, sometimes technicians are also shot. In this case, supporting the windows of silence becomes the main priority, to enable mine clearance, electrical repairs and repairs to water pipes. Damage to chemical factories, mines and sewage pumping stations exposes people to additional environmental risks.
The crisis in Ukraine continues to be a scenario where WASH work can help improve the health and well-being of those affected, but also where cross-border approaches and water workers who operate across the contact line have the opportunity to promote peacemaking and peacemaking approaches. The actual number of incidents since the renewal of the July 2020 ceasefire has been drastically reduced in 2021. However, at the start of 2021, four incidents of small arms fire against water workers were recorded. , as well as an incident in Verkhniotoretsk where pipeline repairs could not be completed for weeks due to the lack of a window of silence, underscore that security concerns persist. In the second quarter of 2021, a widely reported build-up of Russian Federation troops near the Ukrainian border and similar build-ups of Ukrainian defensive forces underscored the need to maintain our readiness for a swift reaction and response in the WASH sector.
The following scenarios have been considered by WASH cluster partners for planning purposes, including scenarios defined by OCHA that relate to troop formation:
A. Return to the situation in summer 2020
This remains likely, but with the increase in the number of WASH incidents, a real risk of damage to critical infrastructure could lead to multi-sectoral and complex negative impacts on normal people.
B. Moderate escalation of violence severely affecting specific areas along the Line of Contact (LoC)
Multiple incidents occurring in areas located along the line of control could result in significant damage to hydraulic infrastructure near Yasynuvata or Shumy, or in other places. It is possible that up to 3.1 million people will be cut off from the water supply (a gun strike could be the cause), or more than a million people will be cut if the pipelines along the LoC or nearby pumping stations were affected. Affected people would live on both sides of the Line of Control, and such an event would also affect people living very far from the Line. Smaller and contained incidents could also affect villages along the Line of Control, and there would be internally displaced persons (IDPs).
C. Further escalation of violence, not limited to the former Eastern Conflict Zone (ECA)
In addition to the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, WASH experts consider Kherson to be vulnerable, given the current water supply problems in Crimea, by the shutdown of the North Crimean Canal.
Option C, which would be devastating, seems even less likely than scenario B. Therefore, scenario B is considered by the WASH Cluster to be the most relevant planning scenario, being more likely than it was under 2020, and leading to a high risk of major water cuts.