Ukraine crisis: Water supply to 600,000 people under threat again

22 November 2016

Geneva/Kiev (ICRC) –The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) calls upon the members of the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk to take urgent action to ensure a continued water supply in the Lugansk region, in particular by finding a way to pay for the electricity consumption of a water board supplying water on both sides of the line of contact. Some 600,000 people in eastern Ukraine are at risk of having their water supply cut off again soon.

"Last time this occurred, we took the exceptional decision to pay the company's outstanding electricity bills," said the ICRC's regional director for Europe and Central Asia, Patrick Vial, who has recently been touring the region. "That was on 5 October, the idea being to give the parties to the conflict more time to reach an agreement to ensure the continued supply of water and to arrange payment of future bills."

At the beginning of October, water pumping stations located in the government-controlled area of the Lugansk region stopped functioning for over ten days because they had no electricity as a result of unpaid bills. The water supply to local residents, hospitals, schools, orphanages and social institutions was cut off on both sides of the contact line. The ICRC raised its concerns among all those involved in the negotiations on the issue and decided to pay the company's electricity bills for October and November to keep the water supply running.

"As we said at the time, we will not continue to pay after 1 December," continued Mr Vial. "We will of course keep a close eye on the areas affected, and try to find ways to work with all sides to address the consequences if the water supply is disconnected. The ICRC is also willing to continue to act as a neutral intermediary, and to provide technical support to reach and implement any agreement on this issue."

The pumping stations concerned are the Karbonit system that supplies water to the cities of Pervomaisk, Brianka and Alchevsk, and the Petrovskaya well field, serving the city of Lugansk. The Karbonit system depends on the water supply from the western filtration plant, which requires a continuous supply of electricity. What's more, without a water supply, heating systems in these towns and cities will be shut down. People will be left without heating and heating pipes will be damaged in the freezing temperatures. In addition, people may end up relying on electric heaters, which risk overloading the electricity network.

For over a year, the ICRC has been involved in repairing and upgrading the Popasna water board's pipelines that cross the front line, as well as supplying the chemicals needed to provide clean drinking water to people served by the water board on both sides of the contact line. In non-government controlled areas of the Lugansk region, the ICRC has provided submersible pumps to the local administration to get damaged infrastructure up and running again.

For further information, please contact:
Marie-Servane Desjonqueres, ICRC Kiev, tel: +380 67 509 61 31 (English and French)
Sanela Bajrambašić, ICRC Kiev, tel: +380 67 509 42 06 (Russian)