Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba announced the preparation of the organization of the visit of the newly elected President of Moldova Maia Sandu to Ukraine. Former Prime Minister and leader of the opposition Action and Solidarity Party, Sandu is a liberal politician who advocates Moldova's accession to the European Union, strengthened relations with the United States, and, unlike his predecessor Ihor Dodon, considers Crimea to be Ukrainian territory. After officially taking office as president in December 2020, she is going to initiate early parliamentary elections, break the backs of Moldovan corrupt officials and pragmatically defend Moldova's national interests in the international arena.
One of her priorities is the settlement of problematic issues in relations with Ukraine. In an interview with journalist Dmitry Gordon on November 12, Sandu stressed that when she visited Kyiv as Prime Minister of Moldova in July 2019, she had a serious conversation with President Vladimir Zelensky and there is still a lot to talk about. In her opinion, there is a serious agenda on the issue of property, border delimitation, hydroelectric power plants on the Dniester River. You need to have an idea of the problematic issues in the Ukrainian-Moldovan relations in order to find mutually beneficial compromises and not to make rash concessions.
The process of delimiting the border around a 17.35-hectare plot of land on the right bank of the Dniester (from the side of Moldova), on which part of the Dniester HPP-2 dam, built in 1982, is still not completed. Together with the Dnistrovska HPP-1 and the Dnistrovska hydro accumulation station (PSPP), it is part of the Dniester hydroelectric complex, which is owned by the state company Ukrhydroenergo.
Until the issue of the Dnistrovska HPP-2 dam is resolved, the Ukrainian side will not install two border markers on the 430 km section of the Danube River near the Giurgiulesti river port, which provides Moldova with access to the Black Sea. By 2018, Ukraine and Moldova managed to determine the state border in other areas.
Moldova supports the fact that the state border with Ukraine runs along the channel of the Dniester. Over the years, Ukraine has sought the transfer of ownership of this territory to Moldova on the basis of the 1982 act of the land-ordering authority of the Moldavian SSR on the transfer of that part of the right bank of the Dniester to the perpetual use of the Ukrainian SSR for the construction of a hydroelectric complex, which has not yet been completed. Funding for the work came from Kyiv. In the 80s, Moldovans took part in the construction of the reservoir. In 2003, Moldovan border guards took control of the construction of the Dniester HPP-2 on the right bank of the Dniester and installed a border sign in the middle of the dam.
In the 2000s, Kyiv offered Chisinau to lease land in the area of the station on a long-term lease, including for the construction of a reservoir. The Moldovan authorities insisted on the creation of a joint venture to manage the station, as well as on the provision of free electricity to Moldova in addition to the rent. The alternative is to pay the cost of the land on which the construction work is going.
Subsequently, the initiative in the negotiations ended up in the hands of Bankova. In 2008, then Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych got Deputy Prime Minister Igor Dodon to renounce claims to the Dniester hydroelectric complex in exchange for Ukraine's recognition of 60 enterprises created on Ukrainian territory during the USSR as the property of Ukraine, and the sale of electricity at prices lower than on the Ukrainian market ... In 2010, then Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and Prime Minister Vlad Filat signed a protocol on the recognition of Ukraine's ownership of objects on the territory of Moldova, which until the end of 1990 belonged or were under the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian SSR. If we start from this protocol, ratified by the Moldovan parliament in 2011, then the entire dam of the Dnieper hydroelectric station belongs to Ukraine.
A similar condition applied to the objects that Moldova claims on the Ukrainian territory. The leadership of Moldova is interested in returning the remaining 25 objects that were under the jurisdiction of Chisinau during the Soviet era (in particular, granite quarries, sanatoriums).
The dispute over the Dniester water is more complicated. Ukraine plans to expand the capacity of the Dniester hydroelectric complex by opening new power units at the Dnistrovska PSPP and the construction of six new hydroelectric power plants with a capacity of 360 MW each in the upper reaches of the Dniester until 2026. This issue is of strategic importance for Ukraine's energy security. The southern regions of Ukraine are the worst provided with electricity. After Poroshenko refused to deal with Russia on the construction of the third and fourth power units of the Khmelnytsky NPP, the importance of the development of hydropower increases significantly.
Today, the capacity of the Dniester hydroelectric complex is over 1,700 MW, if they increase, they will reach 2,300 MW. Six new hydropower plants will bring in an additional 2,160 MW. The total capacity of hydropower facilities on the Dniester will amount to 4,460 MW, which is 36.5% more than the capacity of the Rivne NPP. The ambitious project will allow Ukraine to save up to 1 billion cubic meters annually. m of natural gas, up to 17,6 million USD by reducing coal combustion at thermal power plants.
The Dniester PSP also unloads four Ukrainian nuclear power plants that generate electricity around the clock, the consumption of which is less at night than during the day. At night, surplus electricity from nuclear power plants goes to the Dnistrovska PSPP. A mechanism is being launched to pump water into a huge reservoir with a volume of 40 million cubic meters. During peak electricity consumption, water is drained back into the Dniester, driving turbines. This is how electricity is generated.
Moldova opposes the implementation of the above plans by Ukraine. The initiative is unpopular among Ukrainian scientists and environmental activists. The opinion of the opponents of the projects boils down to the fact that during the construction of hydroelectric power plants on the plains, they will take too much water, which will ultimately lead to the shallowing of the Dniester in the lower reaches, which will negatively affect the water supply of settlements, including Chisinau. Environmentalists admit the construction of hydroelectric power plants in the mountainous part of the Dniester.
In places where new reservoirs will be built, there will be a threat of floods, flooding of settlements, agricultural lands, as well as the territory of national nature conservation parks and reserves will go underwater. A separate problem is the resettlement of local residents, the dismantling of their houses, and the removal of construction waste, the reburial of the dead. Hydroelectric power plants take water from the lower layers of the river, which leads to a decrease in its temperature. Certain species of fish, birds, animals, and plants may disappear.
Vitaliy Korzhyk, Ph.D. in Geography, admits the threat of water breakthrough from the Dniester reservoir through the Moldavian “The Cinderella” (also known as “The Emil Racovita”) karst cave system into the Prut river valley and flooding of the villages Mamalyga, Criva, the failure of the Patsak river valley between the villages Podvornoe and Dankovtsi. The Moldovans fear such an outcome since the terrain in the Dniester region is seismically active. Therefore, they do not lease new lands to Ukrainians for the construction of dams.
In April 2019, Ukraine suspended the implementation of a project for the construction of new hydroelectric power plants while a study was being conducted at the expense of the Swedish Development Agency to see if the concerns of the Moldovan side were justified. Moldovans are asking to provide technical documentation for the Dniester hydroelectric complex since the Ukrhidroenergo company claims that the construction of new turbines was foreseen based on the results of examinations in the 80s and Soviet experts did not find any prerequisites for harm to the Dniester.
In 2017, Moldova proposed to establish new technical rules for the operation of the hydroelectric complex, give them the status of a bilateral document and prescribe in them the volumes of the minimum runoff of the Dniester during the year, so that the river does not become shallower and there is no threat to fish spawning. Now, these rules are an internal document of Ukraine. In April 2018, President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Pavel Filip discussed the prospects for an agreement on ensuring the functioning of the Dniester complex hydroelectric complex. Ukraine needs to make the most of the potential of the Dniester, as in the case of the Dnieper, which today represents a chain of reservoirs in order to provide Ukrainians with affordable electricity, while this is not profitable for Moldova.
Finding a compromise for Zelensky and Sand will not be easy, but they should pay attention to the experience of other countries in resolving similar disputes. In 2018, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan settled a dispute over the construction of the Rogun HPP. President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov feared that the station would reduce the flow of water along the Vakhsh River. Concerns were also raised by the fact that the construction of the facility was planned in an area of high seismicity, where there is a high probability of landslides and mudflows. The next president of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, approved the construction of the Rogun hydroelectric power station in exchange for the consent of the President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon to share the water resources of Lake Sarez. Together, it is planned to build two more hydroelectric power plants on the Zarafshan River in the mountainous regions of Tajikistan, which will provide electricity to the border regions of Uzbekistan.
In 1987, Zimbabwe and Zambia settled a dispute over the use of the Kariba hydroelectric power plant and the adjacent reservoir on the Zambezi River. Built in the 1950s by British colonists, the Kariba hydroelectric plant, funded in part by the World Bank, enjoys a negative reputation. During the implementation of the project, 57,000 local aborigines had to be resettled, who could not find themselves in a new place.