Is Ukraine's Independence Possible
Without the Dnipro?

The Dnipro, a great river, crucial in the formation and development of the Ukrainian nation, is on the verge of ecological collapse. Today, immediate comprehensive intervention to slow down and ultimately reverse its imminent and irreversible degradation is a matter of national security.

The Dnipro River is the third largest river system in Europe. It is 2145 km long with a drainage basin of 504,000 km2. The Dnipro Basin is a unique ecosystem sustaining a rich biological diversity and the primary fresh water supply for 35 millions of Ukrainians. The Dnipro is an important navigable waterway, connected via the Dnipro–Bug Canal to other waterways in Europe.

The past, the present and the future of environmental and socio-economic well-being of Ukrainians has, does and will depend on the vitality of the Dnipro Basin. The Dnipro is the main Ukraine’s waterway and supplies fresh water to
35 millions of Ukrainians.


The past, the present and the future of environmental and socio-economic well-being of Ukrainians has, does and will depend on the vitality of the Dnipro Basin. Populated since prehistoric times, it was of central importance in the history of the peoples of Eastern Europe, particularly in the founding of the ancient Kievan Rus.


The Dnipro River Basin covers 42% of Ukraine and is a unique ecosystem sustaining a rich biological diversity. The Dnipro flows southwards through the country and bisects its natural zones, interconnecting forest, forest-steppe, and steppe and linking them with the Black Sea. More than 60 species of fish live in the Dnipro including bream, perch, carp, sheatfish and pike. The lower Dnipro had been a habitat for migratory and semi-migratory fish such as sturgeon and herring.


The Dnipro River Basin is a diverse economic region of environmental and socio-economic importance. It provides resources of high social value such as water, land and forest and sustains both significant and small business, industrial and residential centres in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, creating a complex river-system of high economic, social and environmental value.

The current degradation of the Dnipro is an example of historically unsustainable development. The extensive use of natural resources with little regard for the ecosystem coupled with systemic socio-economic and political crises in Ukraine has resulted in major, and in some instances, irreversible changes in the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Highly altered by the Dnipro Cascade of reservoirs, it is neither a self-regulating river system with a natural ecosystem nor a natural source of fresh and clean water for people anymore. Today, the current state of the Dnipro Basin ecosystem presents a potential threat for a major regional disaster in Central Europe and the Black Sea Region.

The main factors contributing to the progressive degradation of the Dnipro Basin are the historical modification of the flow regime in the result of the construction of the Dnipro Cascade of reservoirs and hydro-power stations, modification of the natural hydrographic network in the result of the large-scale land drainage schemes, and industrial, agricultural and residential pollution. 

Dnipro Cascade of Reservoirs and Hydro-Power Stations

The modification of the flow regime in the result of the Dnipro Cascade has been in the focus of attention of Ukrainian and international expert community. The hydrological studies conducted for a period of over 35 years acknowledge the degrading impact of the flow modification on the Dnipro River and Black Sea Basins. This said, the issue has not been identified as a priority in the number of joint Ukraine-UN and EU projects or Ukraine Water Policy recently adopted and no cost-benefit analysis of viability or long-term benefit to the region of the Dnipro Cascade removal is available.

Modification of the Hydrographic Network

The unsustainable drainage activities have lead to major alterations of the hydrographic network, changes in the morphometric characteristics of water bodies and their catchments, modification of flow regime, and a fall in the water table. This resulted in the progressive expansion of degraded zones with the features of semi-desert. Recent development of private housing in immediate proximity of water bodies and modification of the hydrographic network for private use contributes to further degradation.

Industrial, Agricultural and Residential Pollution

Industrial, agricultural and residential pollution cause environmental and socioeconomic damage on a region-wide scale. Inefficiently regulated industrial activity in the Dnipro River Basin results in excessive discharges of organic and hazardous contaminants including petroleum hydrocarbons, PCBs, nitrogen compounds, phenols, surfactants, and heavy metals into the basin waters. Extensive forest and wetland reclamation and insufficient sewage treatment in urban populations further amplify the severe environmental impact on the ecosystems and inhabitants not only of the Dnipro River Basin but also of the entire Black Sea Region.

In Ukraine, the public authorities  responsible for the Dnipro River Basin management are the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Ukraine, the State Agency of Water Resources of Ukraine the State Service for Geology and Mineral Resources of Ukraine.

The issues of environmental protection and water resources management in Ukraine are primarily regulated by the Government Environment Policy Strategy of Ukraine until 2020 and the Law to Amend Some Legislative Acts of Ukraine on Implementation of River Basin Based Integrated Approaches to Water Resources Management No. 1641-VIII passed on October 4, 2016 to bring Ukrainian legislation in compliance with the EU Water Framework Directive  2000/60/EC (Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and the of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy within the Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement signed in 2014.

Recognizing the significant regional and global value of the Dnipro River Basin and its importance for the Black Sea, UN, EBRD, World Bank and Ukrainian Government have demonstrated commitment to address the issue jointly.

In 1998-2011, a series of UNDP funded projects was carried out, including Preparation of a Strategic Action Programme (SAP) for the Dnipro River Basin and Implementation Mechanisms 1st Stage (2000-2005), Preparation of the Full-Sized Project Proposal that will reduce transboundary industrial chemical pollution in the Dnipro Basin PDF B (2006-2007) and Implementation of Priority Interventions of the Dnipro Basin Strategic Action Program: Chemical Industrial Pollution Reduction and The Development of Joint Institutional Arrangements 2nd Stage (2008-2011), as well as the UNDP-GEF Black Sea Ecosystem Recovery Ecosystem Recovery Project (2001-ongoing). Within the projects Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA) of the Dnipro River Basin was conducted to establish a framework for efficient water resources management, identify existing problems and offer possible remedies.

Within the Environmental Protection of International River Basins Project (EPIRB), funded by the European Commission, the Upper Dnieper River Basin Management Plan (Upper Dnieper RBMP) covering the period from 2015 to 2021 has been developed to promote understanding of the key elements of the EU Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC (WFD). The Project aims to achieve a good ecological status for all water bodies (WBs), prevent deterioration of ecological status of WBs, ensure sustainable water management,  meet specific requirements set to protected areas. More specifically, environmental objectives aim to reduce levels of pollutants in water to applicable environmental quality standards, to restore the natural hydrological regime in over-regulated WBs and to restore flow continuity, natural morphology of river channels within the Upper Dnieper River Basin.

Lenght of the Dnipro
thousand km2
The Dnipro Basin Territory
Share of Hydroenergy in Ukraine's Economy

We strongly believe that the past, the present and the future of environmental and socio-economic well-being of Ukrainians has, does and will depend on the vitality of the Dnipro River Basin.

We recognize that, regrettably, there is a systemic disregard of the value of the natural environment and the consequences of environmental degradation of the Dnipro both among the general public, business sector representatives and public authorities which results in the poor current state of awareness of the Dnipro River issues and possible remedies and a low degree of motivation to get involved in environmental protection among civil society.

We aim to disseminate information on the actions taken on international, national and municipal levels and to take part in designing and implementing and effective educational campaign to raise awareness of the Dnipro River Basin and general water resources management issues among younger audiences in schools and other educational settings for children.

Visit our blog page to get the latest updates on the current situation, environmental efforts and educational activities to regenerate the Dnipro as well as other interesting information.