Upper Pripait floodplain is one of the key Aquatic Warbler breeding sites in Europe. According to Aquatic Warbler survey, which is implemented every year by USPB, the BirdLife partner in the Ukraine, it supports about 3,5 thousand vocalizing males, or c. 85% of Ukrainian and up to 20 % of European population of the Aquatic Warbler.
Most of Aquatic Warbler breeding sites throughout Europe are protected, including key Aquatic Warbler breeding sites in upper Pripiat. A number of hydrological reserves have been set up here, and establishment of Pripiat National Park is now in progress. Unfortunately, approval of Volyn regional programme “Ecology 2010” poses a real threat to wetlands of upper Pripiat in Volyn region. Strikingly, the programme is approved by the State Regional Department on Ecology and Natural Resources of Volyn district.
The programme has a number of actions which are questionable in terms of their impact on ecosystems of rivers of Volyn region. But the ones of highest concern are:
Technically, this will mean deepening more that 80% of the river bed with the use of excavator from Richitsa village to Lubjaz’ lake within several years.
The “restoration” works on the 6 km segment of Pripiat river from Shchedrogir village to Turia river mouth started, albeit at a small fragment of the river bed, already in spring of 2004, which is before the approval of the programme by the Volyn State department for ecology and natural resources. In the autumn of 2005, after the official approval, the deepening of the river bed was implemented on the whole fragment.
The wetlands of Upper Pripiat floodplain are monitored by USPB, the BirdLife partner in the Ukraine, from 1999. The floodplain at Schedrogir village – Turja mouth section were always very waterlogged. Sedge mires are stretched along the river and regularly mown by local people, there are also numerous oxbows. All this creates very good conditions for nesting of waterfowl. The sedge mires here are also home for up to 4% of Ukrainian population of the Aquatic Warbler.
In May-June 2006, USPB assessed the impact of “restoration of water regime” at this section of Pripiat. And the results where horrifying – the whole floodplain was dry, even in depressions there was no water at the bottom of tussocks. In the second decade of May 2006, the ground water level at both upper and lower pools of Schedrogir village – Turja mouth segment of the Pripiat floodplain was 0,7-0,8 m below the natural water level of the summer mean water period, which happen here in the end of July – beginning of August. At the same time, in other parts of the floodplain of Upper Pripiat, the water level was high, as it would be expected for this time of year. Deepening of the river bed resulted in a decrease of the ground water level even at parts of the floodplain located over 1 km from the river.
The number of Aquatic Warblers at breeding sites located in affected part of the floodplain decreased by 5 times in 2006 and there is a possibility that Aquatic Warblers will not breed here anymore. Other species of waterbirds, like graylag geese, ducks, coots abandoned the area, too. The effect observed is very similar to the consequences of similar works conducted in 2000 at Komarne village – Richitsa village fragment of Pripiat, an Aquatic Warbler breeding site at that time. Deepening of the riverbed there led to transformation of wetlands along the river – wet meadows dried out and vegetation degraded. This resulted in abandonment of the site by the Aquatic Warbler as well as made the meadows unsuitable (too poor) for grazing.
Deepening of the riverbed, is in fact, hidden drainage. And, therefore, goes against national legislation of the Ukraine, and international agreements which Ukraine ratified. The floodplain in the fragment planned for “restoration” works is almost entirely protected as hydrological reserves of regional significance, part of the floodplain is also a Ramsar site.
a) Location of the location of the Upper Pripiat
b) River works implemented in 2005 and planned for implementation in 2006/2007 and AW breeding sites threatened (click to view)
c) River works planned for implementation in 2007-2010 and AW breeding sites threatened (click to view)
For more information contact: Anatoly Poluda, USPB